Amid Coronavirus, Donations Set to Spike on Giving Tuesday

FREDERIC J. BROWN | AFP | Getty Images
  • Since March, pandemic-related charities have seen a surge in donations.
  • Now, on Giving Tuesday, the nonprofits helping those directly impacted by the coronavirus crisis could get an unprecedented bump.

Many charities have seen a surge in donations since the coronavirus crisis began. Now, on Giving Tuesday, pandemic-related nonprofits could get an unprecedented extra bump.

Charitable donations generally get a big boost on "Giving Tuesday," a single day specifically focused on charity in the shopping-heavy week after Thanksgiving.

Last year, the #GivingTuesday effort raised nearly $2 billion in the U.S. alone.

This year, "people are stepping up to take care of their communities," said Woodrow Rosenbaum, chief data officer at GivingTuesday, the nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the event.

"The more people are concerned about Covid, the more likely they are to be generous."

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Even as the coronavirus outbreak caused unemployment to spike and put a stranglehold on some discretionary spending, most Americans said they will give the same or more this year due to the pandemic, according to a new report by Fidelity Charitable. 

More than half of donors whose giving was influenced by the public health crisis said they want to help groups directly impacted, particularly small, community-based organizations focused on medical supplies or food insecurity over national nonprofits, Fidelity Charitable also found. The donor-advised fund program polled nearly 500 donors in August.

It is still unclear how that will impact those larger not-for-profit groups, said Una Osili, associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

"For some of those charities that aren't directly involved with the pandemic, this has been a really challenging period," she said.  

"We depend on philanthropy; without that, we couldn't do what we do," said Jill O'Donnell-Tormey, CEO of the Cancer Research Institute.

"Between now and Dec. 31 will be very telling," O'Donnell-Tormey added. "A lot of people have lost their jobs, there is less disposable income and there's competition out there."

Still, it is encouraging that so many more people are giving overall, Osili said.

Donations are already higher year over year, according to National Park Foundation President and CEO Will Shafroth.

"Donors are really stepping up," he said. "People are showing their support for our national parks, especially, during this pandemic."

"We're hopeful for another strong Giving Tuesday," Shafroth added. "This day of international philanthropy is increasingly important because it starts our year-end fundraising season, a time which accounts for up to 30% of individual giving for the entire year."

Before the pandemic, the percentage of Americans who donated to charity had been on a steady decline.

"Households with lost wealth opportunities have stopped giving," Osili said.

At the same time, wealthier donors are turning to donor-advised funds, which let you make a charitable contribution and receive an immediate tax break for the full donation, and then recommend grants from the fund to your favorite charities over time.

In fact, "giving strategies meaningfully changed with 30% more grants this year," said Amy Pirozzolo, the head of donor engagement for Fidelity Charitable. "It's fantastic to see they are digging deep into these accounts when nonprofits need them the most."

But Covid-19 has also marked "an incredible outpouring of generosity" beyond monetary donations, Osili said.

"We are seeing people give outside of that framework to help their neighbors, friends, health-care workers and local businesses," she said.

"That's much harder to track, but it's encouraging that so many Americans have used this opportunity to get involved in helping others."

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