When COVID-19 began devastating communities earlier this year, hundreds of community-based and social justice organizations set up funds to address its devastating impact. The funds focus on a wide range of issues, from helping small businesses stay afloat to providing meals to families in need to ensuring that students have the technology they need for remote learning. However, despite the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 is having on Black and Indigenous people and people of color (BIPOC) and the widespread demonstrations to end systemic racism in the United States, the vast majority of these funds are not designed to reach these communities.
A recent analysis by Giving Compass, an online platform that curates philanthropic content to help donors give in ways more likely to make a difference, found that philanthropy is continuing to miss the mark in addressing the underlying disparities that have caused communities of color to experience the highest rates of deaths, infections and unemployment due to COVID.
The study reveals that less than
5 percent of COVID-19 response funds established since March are focused on restructuring systems to advance equity for all after the pandemic. Furthermore, only 14 percent of the 505 funds analyzed even mention BIPOC in their framework or approach. Relief efforts have been swift and plentiful, but despite pleas for a more equitable world — particularly in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement — the data suggests philanthropy has more to do.
Giving Compass analyzed publicly available information for 505 funds launched by intermediary organizations in the wake of COVID-19 and found:
• The vast majority of funds (83 percent) are focused on immediate relief efforts;
• Thirteen percent are funding “rebound” strategies, such as the race for a vaccine or technology in schools;
• Less than 5 percent are addressing efforts to reimagine and restructure systems to work for all people;
• Only 14 percent of the funds analyzed explicitly mention reaching members of the most vulnerable communities (BIPOC);
• Eight percent of funds are explicitly earmarked for other specific populations disproportionately affected (frontline workers, artists, restaurant workers, etc.);
• Less than one-third of the funds mention providing direct cash support for individuals;
• Funds focused on rural communities make up 16 percent of the sample — a bit shy of the 19.3 percent of the U.S. population that reside in those areas.
The pillars of impact-driven philanthropy (the practice of giving thoughtfully and intentionally to advance meaningful change) — equity, effectiveness and addressing root causes — are fundamental to an effective long-term response to COVID-19, yet only one-third of these funds said they were addressing at least one of these three components.
True long-term change and actual healing will only come through centering racial justice as we reimagine and restructure existing systems. Our next steps must focus on including the voices of those least well-served and lifting up their power in decision-making as we evolve forward. To ensure we are truly dismantling systems of oppression, we need to engage with BIPOC and LGBTQ communities to lead the design and implementation of strategies that drive us to a sustainably just and equitable society.
Additionally, we need to ensure there are built-in accountability mechanisms for long-term adherence to shifts in the structure of society.
Giving Compass began publishing a list of COVID-19 funds launched by intermediaries, such as community foundations, social justice funds and philanthropy associations, on March 10, 2020 in partnership with the National Center for Family Philanthropy. Intermediary organizations play an important role in aggregating contributions, as well as in sourcing, conducting diligence and directing funding to nonprofit partners well positioned to deliver services quickly and reach the most vulnerable.
Afi Tengue is vice president of philanthropy and impact at Giving Compass, a nonprofit organization that leverages the best of technology and the knowledge of philanthropy to bring individual donors content, resources and tools to give with greater impact. Launched in 2017, Giving Compass was co-founded by Seattle philanthropists Jeff and Tricia Raikes, who identified an opportunity to provide targeted resources to guide donors’ strategic giving. Learn more at givingcompass.org.
Read more in the July 22-28, 2020 issue.