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We can’t simply rely on personal and philanthropic organizations to handle an epidemic like Coronavirus. They have neither the purview nor the scope of world governments, but that doesn’t mean that private donors don’t have a part to play in the recovery efforts. They especially have a role to play in the early days of a disaster before the governments mobilize and in the aftermath when federal funding tends to dry up. For that reason, it’s essential to consider how COVID-19 is impacting philanthropic spending.

A study conducted in the wake of the recession from 2009 to 2011 showed a decrease in the overall amount of money donated. However, it also indicated that while individuals ended up giving less in total, they gave about as much proportionally to their income. Even when faced with tighter budgets and leaner opportunities, the desire to give remained solid. The major distinction came in where money was spent. More individuals gave to charitable organizations where the need was the greatest – like economically disadvantaged communities and food banks – than they would outside of an emergency situation.

That means that artistic and cultural organizations may see a drought in donations, we can reasonably expect to see more money funneled to the most immediate societal needs. And whether it’s due to the nature of the pandemic, differing financial circumstances, or some unknown variable, some charitable organizations indicate that donations have risen since COVID-19 was first identified as a global problem. Schwab Charitable, an organization that provides advice for philanthropic contributions, saw an uptick of 50% in giving between February and June of 2020.

So what does that tell us about charity in a crisis like this? Principally, it’s an indication that we need to be smart about where we spend our money. An outsized problem like COVID-19 may divert more donations to health and human services, but without an immediate concern to identify that money is spread more scattershot. The same holds true for the current pandemic. It can be hard to know exactly where your money will be best used in an outbreak like this. Whether it means simply doing your research or hiring an advisor to oversee your philanthropic spending, a little bit of effort can significantly improve the value of every dollar you spend on doing good.