Philanthropy came to the fore throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. From the development of vaccines and diagnostics to community-based rapid-response funds delivering groceries to vulnerable neighbours, philanthropy helped to both flatten the curve and address inequities in local communities, providing solutions that made a real difference to people’s lives.
According to one report from Candid, generous philanthropists committed somewhere in the region of $10.3 billion in May 2020 alone.
The Council of Foundations reported that circa 750 foundations had committed to a public pledge to streamline grant-making processes in response to COVID-19. Financial aid was delivered at lightning speed, with fewer conditions attached. Individual donors partnered with peers, issuing sizable grants with far less paperwork.
Roman Semiokhin is a serial investor and philanthropist who resides in Cyprus. In the wake of devastating wildfires on the island, Mr Semiokhin resolved to lend his support. He donated $500,000 to support government efforts, providing emergency aid to families whose homes had been destroyed or damaged by the fires.
With in-depth knowledge of the tech industry, Roman Semiokhin turned his attention to education issues caused by COVID-19-related school closures, leveraging the power of technological advancements and the latest research to create innovative education solutions to close learning gaps.
As with any crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic was a tragedy, but also a valuable learning opportunity, forcing philanthropists to take a step back and consider how they can do things more efficiently.
The pandemic and associated lockdowns placed enormous pressure on economies all over the world, with those at the ‘base of the pyramid’, the world’s poorest, bearing the brunt.
Organisations dedicated to supporting underserved communities had to mobilise quickly to protect their assets, networks and partnerships from the effects of the pandemic, to prevent all of their hard work being undone.
When a single event has such a devastating impact on so many, it is always the most vulnerable who suffer most. People working in insecure jobs with little benefits or pay were continually forced to risk their lives, attending unsafe workplaces to try to support themselves.
School closures created a deep chasm between the haves and have-nots, forcing parents without a Wi-Fi contract to pay extortionate mobile data charges to facilitate their child’s participation in remote learning. In many countries, those on the periphery of society, such as prison inmates and refugees, saw their few vital lifelines withdrawn.
At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic incited a collective willingness to give on an unprecedented scale. Confronted with global suffering on an unprecedented scale, institutional and individual philanthropists scrambled, nimbly rising to the challenge.
The pandemic prompted many to dig deeper, changing grant-making approaches and deploying more capital than ever before. Some doubled or even quadrupled normal pay out rates, with some foundations committing as much as $1 billion in COVID-19 relief in 2020 alone. Faced with historic demands, philanthropists mounted an extraordinary response.
If ever there was a moment for charities to consider permanently accelerating their volume and pace of giving, that moment is now. At present, approximately $1.1 trillion in foundation assets have yet to be distributed in the US, with a further $120 billion sitting in donor-advised funds.
Since COVID-19 emerged in early 2020, foundations have been working around the clock amidst considerable uncertainty. As we emerge in a post-COVID-19 world, many do so with a renewed sense of purpose, reshaping their practices and priorities and setting the stage for a new era of giving.