I no doubt like so many of you, am exasperated by the pandemic. I’m over the variants. Over masks. Over the politicization of public health. Over the fear that hospitals will be overwhelmed and ration care. And I’m over the disruptions to life, large and small. And so, I write this month’s philanthropy column from Santa Fe, after deciding to once again cancel travel plans due to the impact of COVID-19.
Listen. There are far worse places to wait out a pandemic. Or so I was reminded today while out on a walk with the dog, inspired and feeling blessed by the snow-capped and magnificent mountains in the distance, both to my left (the Jemez range) and my right (the Sangre de Christo). It jolted me to consciousness and such reminders are necessary these days.
But still, we begin 2022 with COVID-19 fully present in our lives, albeit with new and effective tools to help navigate the world more safely. That brings comfort but ought not mask the reality that the impacts of the pandemic are broad, profound, global, and evolving, with long term consequences for everyone on the planet.
Over the past two years, people of great wealth and ordinary means alike have dug deep and have given generously to not for profit and charitable organizations as the pandemic wreaked havoc across the globe. Here in the United States, charitable giving reached an all-time high in 2020, particularly as pandemic-related giving and giving for racial justice issues both surged. The public sector also invested heavily with the federal and state governments moving significant financial resources into place to bolster battered economies that impacted household incomes.
But what also became clear was that the pandemic impacted different households differently. Families that struggled pre-pandemic to afford basic necessities like food, shelter, and child-care costs may have benefited from the outpouring of public and charitable dollars, but their precarious financial realities persisted even if they received some temporary reprieve. And as omicron is showing us in spades, the pandemic is far from over.
As the new year begins, what we cannot be “over” is the importance of ongoing charitable giving as critical to getting through this pandemic. And even if and/or when, your own life seems to have returned to some semblance of normalcy, the economic and life disruptions to so many in our own communities and globally, will persist for many, many years to come.
The clarion call to be philanthropic and give generously remains an economic and moral necessity in 2022. Here are a few ideas where giving, whatever the amount, can make a true difference.
Food Security – The pandemic underscored the inequities of access to healthy and affordable foods. Local food banks and pantries have been literal lifelines during the pandemic. They have been resilient and creative in meeting the needs of their communities and the need has been enormous. As someone involved in philanthropy, I can also tell you that these organizations know how to make a dollar stretch, so know that your contribution will fill more bellies than you might think.
Housing Security – The pandemic has forever altered the ecosystem of work, and with it, the notion that being in an office is required. My own organization has moved to a model that allows for permanent remote work and nearly half the staff has escaped the environs of the Bay Area for more affordable and lifestyle-preferred locales. Here in Santa Fe, like so many storied towns of the west, the influx of those seeking a new place to call home has exacerbated an existing challenge for affordable housing. It’s gentrification on steroids. For those already struggling to afford rent or purchase a home (the largest generator of personal wealth), the situation is severe. Many localities have organizations that support rental subsidies for people that allow them to stay in their homes and there are also organizations that support down payment assistance for families who can afford a monthly mortgage payment but have been unable to save the money for the down payment.
Supporting Healthcare Workers – Let’s be clear, the best way to support healthcare workers is to get vaccinated. Research overwhelmingly demonstrates that being vaccinated reduces severe illness and hospitalization and therefore avoids your taxing of healthcare workers and systems of care. In addition, gifts like food and gift cards for hardworking staff speaks volumes.
Mental and Behavioral Health – The death of a family member. A career sidelined. An education plan stymied. Social isolation. Economic instability. You name it, the pandemic has caused it. And the mental health implications of the pandemic can have devastating and lasting consequences for children and adults alike. Many organizations that support mental and behavioral health services are being called upon to help individuals address the trauma. You can frequently find these organizations through schools, healthcare providers, or lists of nonprofit organizations.
COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Funds – Many community foundations in the US and across the globe have established relief and recovery funds in the face of COVID and its ongoing impacts. Finding one of these funds may be as simple as an Internet search for your local community foundation or finding a public foundation that supports a particular country. For example, the International Community Foundation, based in California is supporting COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts in Mexico.
However you decide to give in 2022, please consider that COVID-19 has profoundly impacted every corner of the globe. And whether your heart and philanthropic giving is in your own community or extends to that special place thousands of miles away, COVID has and continues to have consequences on how people live, each and every day. So for 2022? Keep…Giving.