Pandemic Philanthropy – How Covid Shifted Giving


When much of the world was left scrambling amidst the financial crisis and societal shutdown from the coronavirus pandemic, there were people who were quietly assessing where to take their dollars to make a difference. 

According to the 2021 Bank of America Study of Philanthropy: Charitable Giving by Affluent Americans – Affluent Americans Expand Generosity During the Pandemic the bulk of America’s wealthy decided to go local. Of the 90% that gave to charities during 2020, that same percentage opted to bolster efforts in the communities in which they live by increasing support of local businesses, individuals and charities. 

“Thirty-five percent supported U.S. organizations outside of their community, and 15% gave internationally,” according to the study. 

Early findings from the 1,600 households surveyed showed three unique shifts in giving with regard to the pandemic: a focus on local community needs, an increase in unrestricted gifts to nonprofits, and an increase in online or virtual interactions between donors and nonprofits. 

Ninety-three percent either maintained or increased giving to frontline organizations who provided basic needs, healthcare and medicine in response to the pandemic. Eighty-five percent either maintained or increased giving to spiritual and religious organizations 94% either maintained or increased giving for other efforts like education, environmental or the arts. 

Another notable discovery from the survey: Despite constraints from social distancing and other pandemic-related challenges, 30% of those affluent Americans surveyed volunteered during 2020. Of those who volunteered, 71% either maintained (48%) or increased (23%) their volunteering.

“Philanthropic households rose to the extraordinary challenges presented by the pandemic”, said Ann Limberg, head of Philanthropic, Bank of America Private Bank. “This sustained commitment by donors shows the importance of a strategic approach to philanthropy that is still flexible enough to respond to a sudden surge in need. It is also a testament to the resilience of those charitable organizations that were able to pivot and effectively use technology to engage with donors during such difficult times.”

Still, if wealthy philanthropists focused their efforts locally and only 15% of those surveyed donated internationally, what does that mean for nonprofits that are focused on helping those overseas? 

It appears that corporate philanthropy assisted worldwide Covid-19 response efforts. In fact, according to a report from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and Candid, those donated dollars totaled $11.9 billion for response and relief efforts just during the first half of 2020. Corporate giving accounted for 66% of those total dollars pledged or awarded.  Independent foundations came in second, accounting for 14% of those dollars. 

As Covid-19 continues to ravage third world countries and the vaccine rollouts in developing countries are stifled, experts told the World Bank that the situation is “absolutely unacceptable” in a recent podcast. 

The help communities in third world countries needed before will likely be exacerbated by the unencumbered pandemic in those areas. As philanthropists focus their money to assist efforts in their local communities, and are understandably making impacts that they can witness, global nonprofits must also be remembered, particularly those that are striving to create sustainability from their efforts. 

Organizations like human rights-focused Amnesty International, WE Charity with its for-profit social enterprise arm called ME to WE that helps fund the organization’s efforts and also Founders Pledge, an organization that encourages entrepreneurs to make a commitment to donate a portion of their personal proceeds to charity when they sell their business. 

All avenues of philanthropy should be considered as the world bravely steps forth from a historic and horrific pandemic and starts down the path to healing. 

About Carson Derrow

My name is Carson Derrow I'm an entrepreneur, professional blogger, and marketer from Arkansas. I've been writing for startups and small businesses since 2012. I share the latest business news, tools, resources, and marketing tips to help startups and small businesses to grow their business.