Philanthropy is a personal demonstration of a donor’s values. Most individuals direct their charitable resources to an issue area or two that most deeply resonates with them and the changes they wish to see in the world. With COVID-19, there is a need for all hands to be on deck to address this threat. For an individual philanthropist, it may seem daunting to know how to help, but donors need not stray far from the charitable engagements and commitments made prior to the outbreak.

Maintain Your Philanthropic Strategy

Nonprofits across issue areas are facing incredible uncertainty as COVID-19 upends all normalcy. Indeed, it is hard to think of an aspect of life that COVID-19 hasn’t impacted. For that reason, the causes that you were dedicated to before this outbreak should remain your priority.

For example, incarcerated individuals face an increased risk for coronavirus, so if criminal justice is your area of focus, continue promoting prisoner rights and perhaps consider advocating for the early release of nonviolent offenders. Some states have begun to do this as a health precaution. Evidence shows that in times of an economic downturn and heightened stress, incidents of domestic violence spike, so supporting women and children during COVID-19 is as pressing as ever. Or, philanthropists interested in conservation might explore how to maintain the environmental gains currently transpiring from a shut-in world that is polluting less due to social distancing.

Take the Long View

During times of crisis, it is natural to feel compelled to contribute to immediate relief efforts. This relief aid should not replace, but rather be in addition to, ongoing commitments.  (Here is the Milken Institute's compilation of ways individual philanthropists can respond to COVID-19.) Despite the current economic downturn, the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy, along with others in the field, are actively encouraging philanthropists to increase their giving.

The key is to continue ongoing efforts to address the social and environmental plights that preceded COVID-19 and have been exacerbated by the current pandemic. Workers’ rights, our healthcare system, and equitable access to resources such as the internet and healthy food were pressing before the coronavirus, and they will continue to need attention as our world begins to recover and revitalize after COVID-19 comes to pass.

In other words, the causes and the charitable organizations you support need you now. They need your renewed commitment, and they also need your support to be flexible and unrestricted.

True change takes time, and in order to play a part in that progress, philanthropists must commit to the long-haul. Keep focused. Your causes are counting on you.

By Hilary McConnaughey, Senior Associate at the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy.