Considerations for COVID-19 Giving

Rose Community Foundation donors have dramatically stepped up their giving over the past few months. The scale and scope of their philanthropic response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been truly inspiring.

From mid-March through the end of May, our donor-advised fundholders made 254 grants totaling $1.39 million. This represents approximately a 300 percent increase in dollars granted over what is typical this time of year.

Just over two thirds of that total has been directed to organizations on the front lines of COVID-19 relief efforts, with many grants focused on food access, basic-needs services and medical response support. The remaining third of grants have provided ongoing support to longstanding donor-advised fund grantees, as many donors accelerate their annual giving to organizations that are not directly responding to the COVID-19 crisis but are nonetheless negatively impacted by the current economic disruption.

While we have been wowed by the empathy and generosity of our donors and the broader philanthropic community, philanthropy’s critical role in supporting those impacted by this pandemic is far from over. This is an all-hands-on-deck situation, in which those of us who are in a secure-enough financial situation are called upon to step up in our giving. The needs have simply never been greater.

So, with all that in mind, here are a handful of considerations for your giving in the COVID-19 era.

1. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

Though this moment requires, and has certainly been met with, a great deal of urgency from the philanthropic community, we also need to begin planning for the long path to recovery.

There isn’t a set roadmap here; this is a situation that asks givers to listen, to be flexible and responsive, and to make decisions with incomplete information. But we do know this: many of the causes, people and communities depending on your philanthropic support will need you for the long haul.

You may want to think about your giving as having multiple phases, though those phases are not likely to be discrete or linear.

2. Nonprofit sustainability is already an issue.

Data from the Nonprofit Finance Fund suggests that roughly half of nonprofits have enough cash on hand to cover three months of operations, and a quarter or fewer have cash reserves to cover operations for six months.

Pair that with the reality that most nonprofits are facing significant revenue losses from what will be months of cancelled fundraising events, lost fee-for-service revenue and an inability to deliver and charge for programs, and we can anticipate a major and lasting impact on the nonprofit sector.

So while we encourage you to continue funding organizations on the front lines of COVID-19 relief, consider also supporting nonprofits that have been most impacted by the pandemic.

3. Pick a lane.

The scope and scale of the needs in our community are so vast that it can be hard to know where to begin. If this is true for you, we recommend directing your giving toward a particular issue area or population you care about. If you have a commitment to a specific cause, you can start by understanding how this crisis is affecting that issue or group and focus your giving on addressing those needs.

For example, if you approach your philanthropy with a focus on basic human needs, then focusing on medical response and access to food and housing is a good place to start in the short term.

If you tend to focus more on longer-term solutions, then giving to medical research efforts or workforce reentry programs may be the right next step for you.

4. Join in pooled giving efforts.

Our collective philanthropic reach and impact is often maximized when we leverage our shared resources in support of community. That is why Rose Community Foundation has contributed $150,000 to the Governor’s COVID Relief Fund at Mile High United Way, and has supported pooled funds focused on arts and culture, women and families, the Jewish community and local journalism.

We have also created the R.E.S.P.O.N.D. Fund, a dedicated fund for individuals who would like to partner with us in an equity-focused, multi-phased response to the medical, economic and social impacts of COVID-19 in seven-county Metro Denver. If you would like to partner with us in our programmatic grantmaking, we encourage you to donate. We have granted $1.7 million in the past two months and are preparing for our next round of grantmaking as we focus our resources on responding to the community needs created by COVID-19.

These needs are great and growing, but so too are the stories of generous people stepping up to help. Some of our donor-advised fund holders have been willing to share stories about their approaches to giving at this time and we are featuring those – and adding to them every week – on our blog. If you are in need of some inspiration or good news, I encourage you to give them a read.

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