Philanthropy and COVID-19: Strategize to support your favourite charities
In a recent blog we highlighted many of the advantages of establishing a Canada Gives Foundation account—as well as the benefits of maintaining longstanding relationships with charities, as so many of our donor clients do—in this time of crisis. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to escalate, charities will need support more than ever. Foundations are a flexible, efficient tool to help fund their ongoing needs.
That’s especially relevant as we track the numerous media reports warning of charities already experiencing financial difficulties and in operational distress due to the swift economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
But as we factor in how the extreme COVID-19-related turmoil in financial markets is creating additional strain and confusion across the system, we’re working with our donor clients to provide immediate help. We’re also suggesting they consider a planned approach to their funding support. We believe that the next few months will provide an unprecedented opportunity for donors to demonstrate their commitment to philanthropy—and bring much-needed relief and hope to others—but that relief needs to be delivered in a strategic, measured way.
We believe that as hospitalizations and mortality rates from COVID-19 peak in the near future, as scientists and health authorities are predicting, the widespread (and highly understandable) feelings of panic and distress gripping the public will begin to ease. At that point philanthropists will have a better opportunity to survey the damage across the charity sector to see how they might provide effective support to their preferred causes.
At the same time, charities will be able to shift from crisis mode and better understand the demand for their services. They’ll also be able to assess the pandemic’s impact on their funding base, while more accurately formulating donation projections for the third and fourth quarters of 2020. In many cases, the outlook for the latter could be grim as balance sheets are battered and both corporate and public donations further dry up. And that’s where the generosity of Canada Gives’ philanthropists can come into play.
While pausing some of these grant requests for the time being makes sense, that doesn’t mean that philanthropists should stop their important charity work. Quite the contrary, in fact.
This is the perfect time to commence (or boost) communication with your charity contacts. Start by asking questions about what they’re seeing and experiencing. How are the communities they support being impacted by this widespread and unprecedented disruption? Where do they see their needs being the greatest and most acute in the coming weeks and months? Because let’s not kid ourselves, even if stay-at-home isolation rules are lifted in short order, the lingering impact on the charitable sector will be sustained.
Next, strategize around the scope and breadth of your philanthropy. Perhaps you’ve always supported a single cause and will continue that great work. Or, maybe given the circumstances, you’ll decide to broaden that generosity to a multitude of organizations within your community or beyond. If that includes a desire to give back to hard-hit areas overseas, be sure to contact a member of the Canada Gives’ Global Giving team soon to discuss your objectives and better understand the logistics of managing philanthropic projects abroad.
Lastly, be sure that the ways that you decide to give back fully align with your core values as a philanthropist and are a reflection of your long-term Charitable Giving Plan. Whether your preferred cause is, say, supporting healthcare for vulnerable populations or helping to improve animal welfare, the funds you donate now will likely have an even greater impact than in the pre-COVID era when so many charities were relatively flush with donations and new support was far easier to acquire.
We truly believe that opportunity is the by-product of any crisis. This one is no different. When this is all over, Canadians may spend a bit more time appreciating the little things, including the work of charities and non-profits across the country. Donors may well take a different view of their giving, perhaps even increasing their generosity.
All it takes is a circumstance like the COVID-19 crisis to underscore the value that’s created by committed charities and dedicated donors who set out to forge a lasting philanthropic legacy. And if we can find a way to make that work more strategic in its approach and scope, then we should take that as a much needed ‘win’ in these challenging times.
Denise Castonguay, Executive Director and CEO