Lessons and Best Practices for Crisis Grantmaking

In times of crisis, the ability to address needs as they emerge is critical. No matter which nonprofit you support, whether you have $10 to give or $10,000, here’s how you can help address needs during the pandemic.

Give immediately

The scale of this crisis means all nonprofit organizations—and the communities they serve—are affected. Giving immediately shores up the nonprofit infrastructure that every community relies on. Start first with the nonprofits you already know and trust, especially when they serve those already vulnerable to COVID-19 (e.g., older adults, anyone with serious underlying medical conditions, disabled people, pregnant women, and people experiencing homelessness) and those at risk due to their work (e.g., health care workers, first responders, and essential workers in retail, pharmacy, transit, farms, deliveries, warehouses, and manufacturing).

Give flexibly

Now is the time to consider removing restrictions of timing or purpose. For example, if you are an individual who gives a small amount every month and can afford to, make a larger donation at one time. If you are a grantmaker who gives restricted grants, consider converting those grants to general operating/emergency funding and give grants now that you had originally flagged for later in the fiscal year.

Give consistently

Organizations that received an early influx of relief need continued support. History shows that disaster funding peaks early and decreases quickly over time. According to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, a third of private giving happens in the first four weeks of a sudden disaster and two-thirds within two months, then giving stops almost completely after five or six months with less funding for recovery. Unlike sudden natural disasters, the devastation and loss of life from COVID-19 has already lasted nearly a year, and is likely to continue even as vaccines are approved, manufactured, and distributed.

Prepare for the Next Crisis

There will always be another crisis, often before the first is resolved, as we saw when the COVID-19 pandemic overlapped with destructive storms, a catastrophic explosion in Beirut, and ongoing refugee crises. To learn more about disaster response, visit CHIP’s Guidance: Help Now, Help Later, Help Better and Phases of Disaster Recovery.