Reasons to be cheerful: celebrating the Philanthropic sector’s response to Covid-19

Reasons to be cheerful: celebrating the Philanthropic sector’s response to Covid-19

As we navigate Covid-19 uncertainty and disruption across all sectors and every area of our lives, it’s good to see strong leadership from key organisations and funders in the philanthropic sector, and a healthy level of pulling together.

Philanthropy Australia joined other sector leaders in securing the decrease of the Government’s JobKeeper Payment threshold to 15% for charities. This is a welcome development; with many organisations facing threats to their survival with cuts to funding and resources alongside increased demand for frontline services such as medical services, homelessness, food banks, domestic violence and support for the elderly, charities are a key part of the solution to helping society manage, and survive the current crisis.

I’ve been following developments closely and also tuning into some very interesting webinars hosted variously by FIA, ProBono, Catalyst Management and the Stanford Social Innovation Review. It was also heartening to read Philanthropy Australia’s 11-point statement, released on 6th April, inviting the Australian philanthropic community to sign up to a set of principles and actions to support grantees dealing with the evolving challenges of Covid-19.

Some key takeaways have been:

  • Looking at historic data covering wars, terrorism, the GFC and more, philanthropy does tend to be very resilient – check out Mark Phillips of Blue Frog Fundraising’s fascinating blog post:
  • Now more than ever pick up the phone and chat to your funders. Nurture existing relationships and remind them of the impact of their funding. Keep them in the loop – whether it’s securing funding for ongoing programs or requesting funding to be re-allocated to projects affected by Covid-19.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need – funders want to help and want to understand how they can do this most effectively; explain how the crisis has affected your organisation and its service delivery.
  • Many funders are relaxing reporting requirements for existing projects, extending deadlines, and/or creating dedicated Covid-19 funding opportunities.
  • Some funders are willing to offer non-monetary help in the form of capacity building, advocacy, technological, legal and marketing support.
  • There are moves to offer untied and flexible funding to deal with staffing, IT and infrastructure needs emerging from the crisis.
  • Australian Communities Foundation and Philanthropy Australia have created the COVID-19 National Funding Platform, a central online directory that allows funders to connect with the COVID-19 related funding needs of NFPs across the country. Register your funding needs today if you haven’t already done so. See:
  • Use this time to develop your resilience and long-term planning for when restrictions ease and things return to a level of normality.
  • Trust and Foundations look at the long-term but they can also respond rapidly as new needs emerge. As testament to that, some of the first funders to respond include the Paul Ramsay Foundation with their $9 million grant towards COVID-19-related scientific research and support for existing grant partners facing Covid-19-related difficulties, the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation’s $250,000 grant to Alfred Health’s Department of Infectious Diseases, the Percy Baxter Trust’s $365,000 towards beds at the former Geelong Private Hospital, and the South Australian Government’s funding package of $1.5 million to relieve pressure on the SA’s arts and artists.
  • There have been some wonderful examples of ingenuity with charities converting events and service models to digital, displaying great agility in getting out emergency appeals and keeping donors connected whether it’s via webcams from the zoo or live streamed performances from arts organisations.

Now more than ever we should celebrate being part of such a connected, compassionate, creative, collaborative and resourceful sector.