Impact, lessons of COVID-19 pandemic for individual, corporate philanthropy examined in Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy report
New research released today by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI examines the ways in which individuals and corporations responded philanthropically to the COVID-19 pandemic and offers lessons that can help inform giving and fundraising practices. Understanding Philanthropy in Times of Crisis: The Role of Philanthropy in COVID-19 also offers insights into how businesses can empower their employees’ giving, volunteering and social activism. The study was completed in partnership with Salesforce.org.
“As we enter the year-end giving season and Giving Tuesday, it’s important for individual donors, corporations and nonprofits to understand the ways in which the pandemic and its associated effects have profoundly impacted multiple aspects of philanthropic giving,” said Una Osili, Ph.D., associate dean for research and international programs at the school. “Although the pandemic’s long-term effects are still unfolding, this study’s findings on shifts in giving patterns and the innovations developed to facilitate giving in this new environment will help donors and nonprofits as they adapt and plan for year-end 2021 and beyond.”
Individuals responded to needs through traditional means, such as giving to their preferred charities or causes, and also expanded their giving through less traditional-means, like crowdfunding gifts and giving directly to strangers or local businesses in need. Businesses responded with their own multi-year social and health commitments. They also worked to equip employees and staff to direct their gifts where need was greatest, and in some cases, directly assisted their employees affected by the pandemic.
The report also found that the nature of the pandemic required the mass adaptation of digital tools in all contexts, philanthropy included. Campaigns and other activities that were once in-person shifted to an entirely digital context. Technology played an important role for corporations to continue their workplace giving programs during the pandemic. The growth in the remote workforce also calls for more innovative ideas leveraging digital fundraising and virtual volunteering tools to promote employee engagement in the years ahead. Given the open-ended nature of pandemic, the results provide a window into how philanthropy has been altered by events in 2020, providing a foundation for better understanding the context of philanthropy today.
Data and information for the study were gathered by analyzing several sources. For individual gifts, the CDC Foundation, Charity Navigator and Global Impact provided access to datasets on individual gifts from 2020 in the U.S., with a particular focus on the early part of the pandemic (March-June 2020). CDC Foundation and Global Impact also provided additional context with responses to open-ended questions focusing on their organizations’ own experience during the pandemic, with additional qualitative insights into individuals’ gifts to their organizations. Data for corporate gifts were provided by Candid, and by examining analytical work completed for Giving USA 2021 that examined the broader corporate philanthropic environment in 2020. Insights into workplace giving were provided by three Salesforce.org customers who utilized Salesforce.org technology to help manage and organize their workplace giving programs. Customers interviewed offered qualitative case studies on how their organizations handled the pandemic in 2020.
Key findings include:
- Americans maintained their commitment to charitable giving throughout the pandemic, despite social distancing and community lockdowns.
- Innovation and digital adaptation were vital to meeting new demands during COVID-19.
- End-of-year giving made up a larger portion of giving in 2020 than in the previous two years.
- Nonprofit subsectors directly responding to the pandemic, such as human services, health, and public-society benefit organizations, saw significant increases in donations in 2020.
- The characteristics of donors to COVID-related causes appeared similar to general patterns in giving to charitable causes more broadly.
- Corporations responded to the increased health demands imposed by COVID-19 with increased giving and multi-year pledges.
- The commitment of corporate philanthropy to health causes is distinct from other types of donors. Corporations donated considerably a larger share of total charitable dollars than other types of donors to health causes. Over one-third (35%) of corporate giving went to health causes in 2020, whereas only 12% of donations from non-corporate donors supported health causes.
- Finance and insurance companies dominated U.S. corporate giving to COVID-19 relief in 2020.
- Corporations that participated in interviews with the school adapted their workplace giving programs in response to COVID-19, with a heavy reliance on technology.
About the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI is dedicated to improving philanthropy to improve the world by training and empowering students and professionals to be innovators and leaders who create positive and lasting change. The school offers a comprehensive approach to philanthropy through its undergraduate, graduate, certificate and professional development programs, its research and international programs and through The Fund Raising School, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, the Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram and “Like” us on Facebook.