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Philanthropy’s Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic


As individuals, companies, and government agencies around the globe try to grapple with the outbreak of COVID-19, private philanthropists have given more than $9.1 billion to response and relief efforts. Candid, a leading data and research hub on nonprofits, has been closely tracking the donations from leading philanthropists and the world’s largest companies. You can dig into that data online here.

While the charitable response to the pandemic is unparalleled in comparison to other disaster giving, it’s critical to keep in mind the effect that the coronavirus will have on nonprofit organizations. Leading experts such as the Center of Disaster Philanthropy emphasize the importance of continued funding in times of crisis so agencies can provide consistent service to our most vulnerable populations.

We’ve compiled a list of ways you can be a supportive grantmaker:

Ask and Listen
Reach out to the organizations you provide grants to and see what areas or programs need the most support.

Provide Unrestricted Funding
Grantees are most in tune with what their clients and communities need. Allowing them to determine where to allocate their dollars in a time of need reinforces your support. If you have made a grant to support a specific program, consider removing those restrictions and allowing the nonprofit to use those funds for general operating support.

Consider Your Charitable Investments
After the declaration of the coronavirus as a global pandemic, the stock market faces uncertainty and volatility. Expect to endure more declines and volatility before the market recovers. As is the case with any long-term investments, keeping your eyes on the horizon and end goal is critical. Nonprofit organizations need funding to keep their doors open despite the current state of the market.

Support Community Engagement
Provide support to organizations that are seen as trusted messengers in communities. Help them get the word out about public health resources, education, and other available services.

Follow Up
When a crisis is over, continue to provide funding. Thinking long-term is key. Nonprofits will continue to provide services long after this epidemic.

A few more things to keep in mind:

  • Many nonprofits rely on fundraising events as significant sources of revenues and many of these events are being canceled in response to the CDC’s guidelines. If an organization you support is in this situation, consider making a grant to help them replace potential lost funding.
  • Disruptions are already being experienced and the most vulnerable are the most at risk for negative impacts from mitigation and containment efforts like social distancing and self-quarantining. In addition, not everyone can afford several days or weeks of supplies and medications. Consider making a grant to local food banks and safety net providers.
  • Many low-wage workers do not have health insurance, and many have had or will have their hours reduced or eliminated. Consider supporting organizations that provide emergency assistance, housing assistance, and financial counseling.
  • While many large employers have the internal capacity for remote work and disaster planning, many nonprofit organizations do not have the financial resources for this type of planning. Consider making grants to support nonprofits’ crisis communications and virtual work environments to promote social distancing policies.
  • Local health departments may need support for working with economically vulnerable populations and immigrants. Consider supporting the work of your local health department.
  • In advising donors, our staff uses resources available through the Center for Disaster for Philanthropy, the leading expert in charitable giving in times of disaster. You may find their webinar on How Philanthropy Can Respond helpful.
  • Greater Horizons staff is available to help you navigate grantmaking during this time. Contact Donor Services with any questions at or 866.627.3440.

Authored by: Ashley Hawkins, Content Specialist