Lessons for Crisis Grantmaking During COVID Response and Recovery

Lessons for Crisis Grantmaking During COVID Response and Recovery

The availability of vaccines and boosters, along with continued measures of physical distancing and masking bring hope for the possibility of a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.  At the same time, the emergence of variants and lack of access to vaccines in most of the world makes the timeline of recovery uncertain.  To have the highest impact during this time of both hope and uncertainty, regions are responding to meet evolving needs and address longstanding and systemic inequity that the pandemic has laid bare.  In short, we are in a mixed phase of both response and recovery.  To learn more about disaster response, visit CHIP’s Phases of Disaster Recovery.

Give flexibly

To meet both known short term and unknown longer-term needs, remove restrictions of timing or purpose that prevent organizations from adapting to evolving needs. 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 costs. Both give nonprofits needed flexibility.

Give consistently

Organizations that received an early influx of relief need continued support.  Unlike sudden natural disasters, COVID-19’s impact on health, education, mental health, basic needs, and livelihoods will continue into the future. According to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, a third of private giving happens in the first six to eight weeks of a sudden disaster. Giving then stops almost completely after five or six months with less funding for recovery.[1]

Give with others

One way individual donors and grantmakers can collaborate is by giving collectively (i.e., pooling their financial resources). In a pooled fund, multiple funders make grants to a single entity to amplify and organize their donations’ effect. Pooled funds often use a 501(c)(3) intermediary to serve as a neutral platform to deploy, monitor, and manage funds. When guided by a governing body made up of funders, issue area experts, or members of the client community, these funds can respond to the local situation and can vet smaller, more grassroots organizations better than an individual can (See India’s Second COVID Wave: How Can I Help? for more on how intermediary funds can support local organizations abroad).

Match giving with need

Focus on giving to the greatest types of need and geographies and populations with the highest needs.

In August 2020 CHIP provided a data-informed visualization of Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern Jersey’s initial response to the pandemic. Our dashboard visualized the philanthropic response compared to need, revealing areas of unmet needs. Other organizations, such as the Center for Disaster Philanthropy in conjunction with Candid, issued a nationwide assessment of how individual donors and institutional grantmakers responded to communities’ needs during the first half of 2020.[2]

Sharing data on your philanthropic response can also encourage other donors to coordinate their giving towards remaining areas of unmet needs.

Build capacity of local organizations

Address longstanding inequities by building the capacity and infrastructure of local organizations. This requires investments in system capacity building, policy/advocacy, and research/innovation. Look to organizations in communities most disproportionately affected by the pandemic, including young people, women, and Black, indigenous, and other people of color. In the first half of 2020, only 5% of institutional giving explicitly identified communities of color.[2]




[1] Center for Disaster Philanthropy. (2021). “CDP Recovery Funds.”

CDP Recovery Funds

[2] Sato, G., et al. (2020). “Philanthropy and COVID-19 in the first half of 2020.”
Candid and Center for Disaster Philanthropy. https://disasterphilanthropy.org/