Lily School of Philanthropy research finds community funds raised more than $1 billion for COVID relief across U.S.


Alliance magazine


COVID-19 relief funds at local United Ways and community foundations across the United States raised more than $1 billion and distributed at least $589 million to financially vulnerable individuals and nonprofits leading the pandemic response in their communities as of June 30, according to research led by community philanthropy expert Laurie Paarlberg, Ph.D., of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI. 

Paarlberg and her colleagues also identified over 1,000 such organisations supporting COVID-19 funds, 244 of which are jointly supported in partnership with at least one other neighbouring United Way or community foundation. 

It is likely that both the number of funds and the amount of money raised are estimates and under report the magnitude of this type of community philanthropy, as only about 60 per cent of funds currently are reporting these numbers publicly, said Paarlberg.

‘Our team is mapping these local COVID-19 relief funds to show where and how United Ways and community foundations all over the country are responding to the threat and impact of the pandemic, helping nonprofits, individuals and families in the communities they serve,’ Paarlberg said. ‘Our work helps us understand the role community philanthropy organisations play in responding to the immediate and long-term needs of local communities.’

Other key findings from the research included that the public and prospective donors can locate relief funds in their community and better understand the work local philanthropic organisations do within their communities; other foundations and philanthropic funders can identify gaps they may be able to help address, as well as potential partners; and policy makers can learn about the many roles community philanthropic organisations play in local response and recovery and identify potential ways to partner with and support these voluntary efforts.

‘Each community will take a different approach to identifying needs,’ Paarlberg said. ‘Some communities are prioritising keeping nonprofits on the front lines of response afloat, while other funds are focusing on providing charitable relief to vulnerable populations affected by the crisis. The funds’ responses reflect local context and local priorities.’

The community relief funds research is the first to be released among several Lilly Family School of Philanthropy research projects examining Americans’ philanthropic response to the COVID-19 crisis. Results of additional studies will be released throughout 2020.

Tagged in: Covid-19

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