As we head into summer, many of us may fondly reminisce about the end of the school year and (perhaps, not so fondly) recall our final report card of the year. Eighteen months since the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) first shared the news about coronavirus in its weekly  disaster round-up, we decided it was time to issue a report card of sorts on the humanitarian and philanthropic response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A staggering $24.8 billion has been given in response and recovery funds since 2020, and we’re witnessing vaccination progress each day. According to Our World in Data, as of June 20, only 22% of the global population had received at least one vaccine dose. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 53.4% of people have received one dose and 45.2% are fully vaccinated. 

While brighter days may be ahead, we can’t forget that approximately 179 million people worldwide have had COVID-19 and nearly 3.9 million have died (as of June 21). We’ve seen more than 34 million total cases in the U.S. and nearly 600,000 deaths. Though the U.S. has only 4.3% of the world’s population, it has almost 20% of the cases and more than 16% of the deaths. 

Although everyone has been affected in some way by COVID-19, those already experiencing social inequities have been hit hardest by the pandemic, including Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities. 

During a recent CDP webinar, COVID-19 Check-Up – Assessing Response and Planning RecoveryCDP’s Vice President Regine Webster moderated a discussion with Arisha Hatch, vice president and chief of campaigns at Color of Change, a CDP grantee; Dr. Judy Monroe, president and CEO of CDC Foundation; and Sally Ray, director of domestic disaster recovery funds at CDP, about their visions for equitable recovery and what funders can do now and throughout the next few years as the world rebuilds.

Key Takeaways for Donors
  • Embed an equitable disaster recovery framework into grantmaking, focusing on BIPOC communities: BIPOC communities were impacted disproportionately by COVID-19 in terms of infections and deaths, have had reduced access to vaccines, and were highly impacted by the negative economic factors COVID-19 created. Asian Americans were targeted as “creators” of the virus and publicly harassed and attacked. Funders need to stand in solidarity with these communities by supporting their needs in recovery.As Hatch shared, “There are a number of systemic issues that we are seeking to address and eradicate. Things like economic justice issues, the way assistance was provided, and how some businesses were written out of the algorithm.” 
  • Build local networks, local leadership, and local power whenever possible. Capacity building is critical, and so is developing that capacity at a very local level. Fund as close to the ground as you can to reach the most marginalized communities and create long-term impact and sustainability. 
  • Fund the full arc of disasters – look to the future and include recovery, planning, and preparedness in grantmaking: In their most recent study of disaster philanthropy, Candid and CDP found that 50% of funding went to immediate response. But we must also fund recovery from the pandemic at local, national, and global levels. This is unlikely to be the last pandemic in our lifetimes, so we need to take the lessons and apply them to future planning and preparedness. Monroe reminded us, “We are in a marathon here. Not just in terms of overcoming the pandemic but also when thinking about long COVID. We’re still learning how much and how many people are going to be left with chronic conditions.” 
  • Recovery includes rebuilding families AND communities: Recovery isn’t just about economics but needs to include the social and community structures. Families need to be supported as they deal with loss, long-haulers, and potential variants that can cause new cases. “Root causes are impacted and exacerbated during a disaster. Pre-existing access and care issues – across sectors – are worsened for systemically marginalized populations. All this was laid bare by COVID-19,” Ray said.
  • There is an opportunity for all sectors to seize the moment. Let’s not go back to the way things were. This is a time to restructure and refine grantmaking and philanthropy. We must continue to focus on access and equity. Use this moment to enhance trust-based philanthropy.