Writer’s Note: The following recommendations were originally shared in Philanthropy and COVID-19: Examining two years of giving, a report published on May 25, 2022 by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and Candid. They are based on the combined wisdom of CDP’s staff, advisory council, and board. They represent promising practices and important directions for philanthropy as we collectively continue to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Year three of COVID-19 brings with it the wisdom we have gained as funders in watching our communities and grantee partners respond to the crisis. It also brings the knowledge that even if COVID-19 was to be eradicated, the damage the pandemic has done, and the inequities it has exposed, will take decades to repair.
We are also clear, however, that this pandemic will not magically disappear. In the second COVID-19 report, we said, “The pandemic is leaving behind broken systems and fractured communities, families, and individuals.” This continues to be true.
Research has shown that marginalized communities within the U.S. and countries around the world do not have equitable access to health care, including vaccines. Lower-income countries will continue to struggle if vaccines are not made cheaply and easily accessible. The combination of racial discrimination in health care within the U.S. makes it more challenging for racialized communities to get informed and accessible care. People with disabilities, those living in poverty, LGBTQIA+ communities, children and youth, older adults, and many others have also been disproportionately affected by the broader impacts of COVID-19.
This year, we are asking funders to recognize that sustained financial attention is at the heart of effective recovery from the pandemic. As the report shared, COVID-19 funding dropped from 2020 to 2021, in the number of donors, the dollar amount awarded, and as a percentage of total grants paid. Yet, we also know that recovery from the pandemic will take decades. It is incumbent upon funders to continue to provide support for this crisis.
It is important to note that we do not see COVID-19-related giving as moving money away from other pressing issues. Instead, we invite funders to increase their giving and to consider their existing grant programs with a COVID-19 lens. How are you ensuring that your education funding addresses the lost learning and socialization time children and youth experienced during the pandemic? Is your funding for California wildfire recovery taking into account the need for non-congregate sheltering due to the pandemic? Does your funding for humanitarian recovery in Ukraine allocate for health care resources to address the compounded traumas of COVID-19 and displacement? Here are four steps you can take right now that can help invigorate your COVID-19 giving strategy.
- Build an equitable response. Recognize the ways in which the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on marginalized communities. This will look different in every region, but there will always be populations and sectors that have increased negative experiences. Provide additional financial and technical support to those communities. Support capacity-building work and fund operational costs of organizations addressing the needs of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color as well as the root causes of systemic inequities that stand in the way of equitable outcomes.
- Flex your funding. MacKenzie Scott’s grantmaking is a wonderful example of an important approach in philanthropy: flexibility. Fund operating expenses. Support capacity building. Fill gaps in funding that your grantee partners are challenged to get met elsewhere. The pandemic has taught CDP staff that we need to be fluid in our response and work. We share that with grantees so that they know they can reach out and tell us how their needs have changed throughout the work.
- Give trust. Our grantee partners are the experts; we need to treat them as such. Let them guide you in your funding. Trust-based philanthropy includes being transparent, responsive, providing technical support and other resources, and reducing the paperwork burden.
- Go local. Localization—the centering of power in the hands of those people who are most affected by the issue and focusing on local decision making—is often seen as an international issue. However, it is equally as important for domestic funding. Fund as locally and grassroots as possible. Who are the groups that are going to be supporting recovery from the pandemic for years to come? We at CDP tend to follow the adage that “disasters begin and end at the local level.” Build relationships with local organizations and bring them into your grantmaking portfolio.
CDP and Candid have a long-term partnership to collect and analyze data about humanitarian crises and disasters. To ensure we can capture the true intent and meaning of your grantmaking, we encourage you to share your data with Candid. This transparency is the only way the sector can understand funding patterns, identify critical needs, and make informed giving decisions. We thank the more than 850 donors who have shared their latest grants data with Candid.