The global impact of Covid-19 has presented philanthropists with unique challenges that will likely shape the future of global philanthropism for many years to come. Increased collaboration, flexibility in charitable structures, and the continuing importance of technology in measuring impact are just a few of the immediate responses highlighted throughout KPMG’s white paper on Disruptive Philanthropists.
That does not mean however that philanthropists’ priorities are changing. The causes and passions that drive activity continue to remain very much at the heart and centre of activity.
The causes that were important pre-pandemic have not disappeared. They remain as important today, if not more so, and continue to fuel philanthropists as they journey towards their varied benevolent objectives.
“The impact of Covid-19 should not be overemphasized,” says Ashish Dhawan, founder, Central Square Foundation. “It has accelerated change, for example in leveraging technology and the need for agility, but it hasn’t fundamentally changed the frame of mind on reform in a big way.”
Throughout the pandemic, the amount of charitable giving to communities in need has increased and will likely continue for years to come.
That giving has been channelled in many ways for example, some charitable families have increased direct financial giving to causes in their neighbourhoods or to those convictions that sit close to their hearts. We have also seen many instances of families pooling their giving to achieve greater impact with some ‘Covid-19 specific-giving’ including the purchasing of hand sanitizers or personal protective equipment to be donated or given away free of charge. Philanthropists have continued to respond in any way they can.
While levels of Covid-19 directed giving may, quite naturally fall away, philanthropists are adamant that it will not affect the programs and charities they support.
Collaboration and technology
One observation that has resulted from the pandemic is increased collaboration between philanthropists, governments, and commercial organizations. “It has brought individuals together in virtual forums that would otherwise never meet. It is driving connections and programs that would never have previously got off the ground” says Atalanti Moquette, Founder of Giving Women.
It is a trend that will gather pace and multiply the impact of philanthropic programs.
Yet perhaps one of the most significant changes to emerge throughout the pandemic and that continues to gather pace is the adoption of technology to deliver and measure the impact of philanthropic programs.
In healthcare, schools, local government, and community development programs, technology has been used to help deliver increased support.
Video call platforms and digital chat tools have helped remote African villages remain engaged, online learning platforms are increasing the reach of early years education, and technology has also provided increasing levels of data that can help philanthropists improve programs and demonstrate the impact their investment brings.
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for flexibility in the structures surrounding philanthropic activity. As KPMG’s white paper on Disruptive Philanthropists suggests, structures that are too tight or rigid can leave philanthropists’ hands tied with regard to the speed in which support is provided and the manner in which help is dispensed. As a result, such structures are now routinely reviewed to reflect the need for greater flexibility.
This is approach is reflected in philanthropists streamlining grant application procedures and measurement metrics. We have also seen an increase in unrestricted donations – something charities welcome as it allows a charity/organization to spend budget where it is needed most without increased restrictions.
That does not mean that the rigour in decision making has disappeared. Philanthropists continue to remain very ‘hands on’ in their support, often supplying more than financial assistance with many lending their time the most precious of resources. The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the pace of change with advances in technology enabling philanthropists to achieve more while more accurately measuring the impact of their work. Conversely the pandemic highlighted the need for review to allow the introduction of more agile structures that reduce response times and allow the band width to provide timely support when and where it is most needed.
Change is inevitable when the global landscape is uncertain, but it is clear that whatever the future has in store, philanthropists will continue to find ways to respond.