Philanthropy cannot self-isolate, and good ideas should never be quarantined


Massimo Lapucci


We are inundated, and appalled, every day with images, data and words all describing the horrific impact that this outbreak is having on our countries, our communities, and our own lives. It is at such times that we as a sector must find additional strength to help mitigate the fallout, and in the following I’m sharing with you how the EFC – in conjunction with its partners – has been reacting. From vaccine research to emergency funds supporting the most at-risk populations, it is no surprise that such a diverse sector offers bespoke remedies to our current plight.  After all, philanthropy is well versed and trusted in working and collaborating at community level and investing in long-term solutions.

Gathering information, highlighting initiatives
As a membership association, and as a sector, the first port of call in a crisis is information. We knew foundations would be active from the outset, but we needed data and examples of what they were doing. As such, from 12-20 March the EFC surveyed its membership to find out what measures they are taking, both internally and in their programmatic and funding activities, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of the survey was to gain an overview of what our members are doing and to identify possible points of collaboration and synergy. Nearly 100 organisations responded – almost half of the membership – and for certain many of those who couldn’t find time to respond are working on COVID-19 related measures.

Key findings included:

  • All respondents confirmed that their organisations have taken internal measures to protect staff, visitors, and the public, most of them before national governments took action.
  • 70% of respondents said they were using “smart-working” methods to compensate for working from home.
  • 79% of respondents said programmes will be harder to implement
  • Respondents indicated that they are actively providing new support in response to the crisis, including launching new initiatives; are making adjustments to existing programmes; and are enhancing their collaboration with various stakeholders
  • There was a general interest in finding collaborative ways to fund and/or exchanging ideas, information and good practices

Key challenges included:

  • Evaluating which if any activities to suspend, modify or restructure to accommodate the current situation
  • Dealing with the suspension of grantee visits, convening and capacity-building activities
  • Non-profits having cash flow problems
  • Shifting funding priorities to meet the emergency needs of communities at risk rather than supporting non-profits’ financial sustainability
  • Concern over a shift in political commitments (for example taking momentum away from climate change)

Collaboration, but also cohesion
So much brilliant work, so many challenges, and so many ways that this vital information is being collected and shared. Philanthropic infrastructure hubs all have individual email messages, response pages and multiple hashtags. As a sector, I wonder if perhaps we need to move from talking about the importance of collaboration, to embracing the importance of cohesion, to ensure that we are at our most efficient best at times like these.

As such, on 25 March the EFC and DAFNE jointly issued the European Philanthropy Statement on COVID-19, calling for a strong spirit of European solidarity in the face of the current adversity. The wording of the Statement, important as it may be, is in a way secondary to the bigger message – that we as a sector must show a unified, coherent response to this current threat as well as those that doubtless lie ahead (or are already known, such as the climate emergency). If you agree, we would love to add your signature.

Addressing ways to try to combat the impact of COVID-19 a few weeks ago, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had “a simple message for all countries: test, test, test.” As a sector, we pride ourselves on being the risk takers, the connectors, the change makers. It is time to put those assertions to the test, so let’s do so coherently together, and let’s make sure that we are there to support our organisations, our stakeholders, our communities to get back on their feet again when this crisis passes. Let’s show what philanthropy can do when its elements work in unison.

So, for the meantime let’s stay home, stay safe and stay connected.

Sending you all warm regards from Torino.

Massimo Lapucci, chair of the European Foundation Centre

Take the survey!
The EFC survey is ongoing and will evolve as the situation develops. In the coming weeks we will update the survey and go more in-depth with some of the data. We will also put members who indicate a desire to work together in touch with each other.

We thank all those members who have responded to the survey, and we invite those who have not yet had a chance to take the survey. The EFC will be publishing updated findings on a weekly basis, and will keep updating its webpage on how EFC members are mitigating the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

Tagged in: Covid-19

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