Part one in a three-part series. Read part two and part three.

Throughout the pandemic, people have fallen through our health and economic safety nets. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are living in the realities of historical and structural injustices that make them much more vulnerable during this pandemic. As others have noted, we may all be in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat.

Yet, there is hope for a new way: COVID-19 has successfully convinced us that the health and well-being of any person are inextricably linked to the health and well-being of all.

To build a future where all humans can truly access opportunity and realize success--across all lines of race, place, gender, sexual orientation, and class--we must listen closely to the narratives and voices of those who are currently least well-served. Our next steps must focus on including their voices and lifting up their power in decision-making as we evolve forward.

An Individual Approach to Systems Change

At Giving Compass, we provide resources and tools that help individual donors learn about issues, get involved, and give with impact. We are guided by the set of principles--co-authored by stakeholders at the grassroots and decision-making levels---that inform Impact-Driven Philanthropy (IDP).

IDP emphasizes three tenets that lead to greater impact:

  • Equity: Centering the people who are being least-well served by systems, in particular understanding racial disparities.
  • Systems Change: Addressing institutional and structural root causes of issues, which can lead to shifting systems.
  • Effectiveness: Ensuring intended beneficiaries are at decision-making tables to co-create solutions and evaluating impact through quantitative and qualitative data.

As we look to the future, there are three stages of response that can lead to a future with a more equitable redistribution of power and resources - 1) relief, 2) rebound, 3) reimagine and restructure.

Giving in the relief phase is about addressing the immediate needs in the midst of a crisis, or “stopping the bleeding.” Examples include ensuring food banks have increased capacity to meet the growing needs of communities or supporting COVID communication campaigns that are translated into multiple languages to share urgent health announcements with immigrant and refugee populations.

As the initial effects of a crisis dissipate, we move to the rebound stage, or “turning the ship.” These are interim giving strategies that build momentum towards more equitable outcomes. Examples include ensuring all students have access to WiFi and technology to support online learning or funding expanded teen homeless shelter capacities for LGBTQIA youth in the midst of rolling stay-at-home orders.

Reimagine & Restructure

We often hear the term “recovery” during and after a disaster, but the word implies that the status quo that facilitated our current crisis is all that we should return to.

Instead, we must reimagine a world where members of marginalized communities are engaged in redesigning how things work so that we emerge with restructured systems that work for all.

Think of it this way: “Our house before the hurricane lacked a space where our 8-person family could all sit for dinner. After the disaster ripped through the kitchen area of our home, we built a larger dining room that seats the whole family.”

Reimagination encompasses long-term bets and actions that include:

  • Equity: Thinking, planning, and executing strategies in partnership with marginalized communities for the right, ethical, and just path to an equitable society.
  • Systems Change: Providing multi-year intentional support to advocacy and policy activities that change structural inequities and have built-in accountability mechanisms for long-term adherence to shifts, narrated and managed by marginalized populations.
  • Effectiveness:
    • Honoring that real structural change of root causes takes time.
    • Anchoring multi-year unrestricted gifts to organizations and funds led by BIPOC who have been doing the work in communities for years - as formal nonprofits or community coalitions.
    • Trusting those closest to disparity to provide lived expertise to inform policy changes.
    • Facilitating authentic inclusion of marginalized voices in the long-term discussion of restructuring, in the midst of the exacerbated crisis we are experiencing.

Individual donor dollars can be nimble and more quickly disbursed, with fewer restrictions than foundation dollars. This is the moment for individuals to make the impact many have always hoped to achieve: Moving society to a more resilient, sustainable, and just existence for all.