In times of economic crisis, the urge to act precipitously is understandable. But such an approach may not help donors reach their intended goals.

A financial downturn affects both the supply and demand sides of philanthropy. Money available for giving often shrinks just as public need rises sharply, driven by hardships like high unemployment and ebbing government resources. In the recent recession, private foundations and donor-advised funds saw double-digit investment losses. Some donors felt they had to retrench; some vowed to maintain their normal levels of giving.

Huge economic change may seem to call for a dramatic change in giving strategy. But thoughtful philanthropists rarely panic. In fact, they often see changing circumstances as a chance to take a fresh look at their approach—reviewing their giving; recalibrating their priorities and methods; and recommitting to a long-term giving strategy (if appropriate).

This brief guide is designed to serve both emerging and established donors. Part of the Philanthropy Roadmap series, it looks at important questions faced by those who give in challenging times.