Having firmly committed ourselves to recognizing and combating systemic racism and having made that a fundamental goal of our philanthropy…we must do our part to support not only our own community, but also other communities with greater need and fewer resources.
—Bill and Holly, Seattle-area philanthropists
There has been a surge of generosity in the wake of COVID-19, from everyday donors giving small amounts that add up to significant dollars, to those with high giving capacity making headline-worthy contributions. Examples of amazing mutual aid efforts, volunteer drives for mask- and hand sanitizer-making, and overall giving abound, and it’s no wonder. This pandemic has touched us all and we all want to help. For most of us, that help starts locally by financially supporting organizations we have given to in the past, our community foundations, and our neighbors, small businesses, and friends.
However, as COVID-19 and its implications become better understood and new tools emerge, donors have opportunities that perhaps were not available in the earliest days. As West Coast governors stepped back to assess the region’s needs after social distancing efforts, so too can donors step back and assess their giving. Those governors chose to ship highly valuable ventilators to New York where the need was infinitely more desperate. Donors have the opportunity to think similarly about COVID-19 and ask themselves:
Where are people and communities most vulnerable to this virus and how can we shift resources there?
We are in a unique moment as we battle the effects of COVID-19. While it is a disease that respects no borders and will infect anyone given the opportunity, its effect is not the same for everyone and for all regions. We are seeing how factors such as race, proximity/density, and access to health care are laying bare differences in wealth and health across the country.
In Seattle, where we live, our community was at the forefront of this pandemic, and our community foundation, Seattle Foundation, immediately led a public-private funded COVID-19 response initiative that raised nearly $20 million in response. In addition, a parallel campaign called “All in Seattle” was able to raise another $30 million to get resources quickly to organizations and people who most need help. And these efforts don’t even include the funds dedicated exclusively for restaurant workers, artists, and public school children, raising even more millions.
We have by no means met all the need here in Seattle or in Washington State. However, there are other places in our country that are being disproportionately impacted by this virus and its effects and have limited philanthropic resources to mitigate them.
For example, in Louisiana, with the nation’s third highest poverty rate, African Americans represent about one-third of the state population but 70% of COVID-19 deaths, most of which are centered in the New Orleans area. What’s common among African American communities in many cities is that systemic inequities have limited their access to healthy food, safe and secure housing, well-paying jobs, and even basic health care. And, they are over-represented among the workforce providing essential services during this pandemic. This results in increased instances of illnesses that align with the most dangerous co-morbidities associated with COVID-19, including diabetes, respiratory and heart issues, and high blood pressure. The struggles these communities face are poignantly illustrated by a recent story in The Washington Post.
Strategic donors can take a data-driven approach and shift some of their emergency resources to these places, drawing on tools such as the new COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index to understand which communities need the most support as the coronavirus continues to spread. Also, Giving Compass is an excellent resource for donors searching for vetted regional response funds in these places. An example is the Greater New Orleans Foundation’s Disaster Response and Restoration Fund, which works deeply in community and thus has the ability to identify those in greatest need and dispatch its funds quickly. In rural or Southern areas, dollars tend to go much farther, given that rent, food, fuel, and other necessities can cost much less to provide.
Whether one is moved to act based on data, story, or a combination of both, the most strategic donors incorporate new information into their giving plan and approach their philanthropy in times of great need with a sense of abundance and through the lens of equity. History will judge the American COVID response on the outcomes of the least among us. Indeed, we are all in this together.
Learning and benchmarking are key steps towards becoming an impact giver. If you are interested in giving with impact on Impact Philanthropy take a look at these selections from Giving Compass.
Looking for a way to get involved?
COVID-19 is a fascinating topic, and others found these events, galas, conferences and volunteering opportunities aggregated by Giving Compass to be relevant for individuals with a passion for COVID-19.
Are you ready to give?
If you are looking for opportunities to take action and give money to COVID-19, here are some Giving Funds, Charitable Organizations and Projects aggregated by Giving Compass where you can take immediate action.