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  • Writer's pictureBill Hallett, PhD, ACFRE

Thoughts Related to Philanthropy in These Covid-19 Times

Updated: Oct 24, 2022

The ongoing outbreak of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus finds us at a point in history unlike anything we’ve ever seen before – a time which will give us cause to think about how charities adapt to the times we face.

Every facet of our existence, our work, home and social life, has been affected by COVID-19. Everyone in every sector is trying to figure out what can be done. But on the bright side, it’s times like these that can bring out our sense of generosity and empathy. Indeed, research shows that in bad times, people tend to give more.

As we move through the pandemic together, we would like to share a few of our thoughts regarding the charitable sector. We know others in the sector will have additional perspectives. Collectively, we all can contribute to reassure Canadians that the charitable sector will remain viable and reliable.

Certain institutions and charitable organizations will become even more necessary during these challenging times. Institutions that deliver public health will be paramount – provider such as hospitals, urgent care centres, testing centres for COVID-19, pharmacies and the like.

Food banks, mental health support agencies and other support centres for our most vulnerable friends and neighbours will also be at the forefront in supporting those who need help the most.

Many charities will be in the midst of capital campaigns and/or major gift programs that require personal meetings with people they depend on, often represented by the demographic most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Remember, everyone is feeling the“sky is falling” because of the stress on financial markets; it is just a matter of proportion. If a person of modest means loses a few hundred dollars, or a person of wealth loses millions of dollars – we all share the feelings of worry and anxiety.

So what do we do? Nothing? We all may need to self-isolate, but doing absolutely nothing could worsen our situation. And you do not want your donors and the community to forget about your cause?

So here are some suggestions for charitable organizations and institutions to consider. We challenge others to add to these ideas.

  • Encourage your donors, if they are able, to give to your charity through online donations – which are important to keep your charity operationally viable.

  • Demonstrate to them why their support is now more important than ever. Do not assume your donors know. However, everyone intuitively knows continued support, or support from donors, is critical for agencies such as:

√ Food banks

√ Homeless shelters

√ Transitional housing for the abused, especially single moms with children

√ Charities that provide home services, such as Meals on Wheels

√ Health-care institutions, and

√ Those providing care to the elderly, the sick and the dying

  • Encourage donors and everyone to drop off non-perishable food items, again if they are able

  • For charities in capital campaigns to build new or renovate existing facilities that support critical programs, ask your current and even prospective donors to not abandon you now! But be sensitive to potential risks by letting them know you realize personal visits are out of the question. Remember, the market will rebound as the worst of COVID-19 abates.

  • Let your donors know that if they have to put their pledge on hold, it’s okay. They will love your charity even more after all this is over.

  • When COVID-19 is over and the markets bounce back, call or go see them. Thank them for not abandoning your charity and ask them to restart and/or renew their pledge or make a new one – or a first one.

  • Call current and even prospective donors to inform them of your campaign and ask them; “When COVID-19 is over, will you be willing to see us?”

Your charity’s mission and vision will be more important than before COVID-19.

As our leaders are assuring us, we will get through this. But for now, continue to engage your donors and steward them from a distance, in a way that shows how compassionate your charity really is.

Indeed, we will get through this!



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