The Role Of Philanthropy In A Pandemic

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Volunteers give out groceries at a drive-thru Three Square Food Bank emergency food distribution site at Boulder Station Hotel & Casino in response to an increase in demand amid the coronavirus pandemic on April 29, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (DAVID BECKER/AFP via Getty Images)
Volunteers give out groceries at a drive-thru Three Square Food Bank emergency food distribution site at Boulder Station Hotel & Casino in response to an increase in demand amid the coronavirus pandemic on April 29, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (DAVID BECKER/AFP via Getty Images)

The federal government has passed multiple economic aid packages. But philanthropy may also play an essential role in economic recovery. We look at the advantages and disadvantages to private giving.


Una Osili, associate dean for research and international programs at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, a school dedicated to increasing the understanding of philanthropy and improving its practice worldwide. (@UOsili)

La June Montgomery Tabron, CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. (@LaJuneTabron)

Dr. Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation. (@rajshah)

From The Reading List

The Guardian: "Don't dismiss philanthropy: it's crucial during the coronavirus crisis" — "In Bill Gates’ eerily prescient 2015 Ted Talk he states that “the greatest risk of global catastrophe … is not missiles but microbes”, which, he predicted, could claim over 10 million lives and wipe $3tn (£2.4tn) off the global economy."

Los Angeles Times: "Charity is off the charts amid the coronavirus. Is that a sign of America’s strength or weakness?" — "The coronavirus outbreak has shut down entire school districts and turned bustling commercial corridors into ghost towns, but there’s one sector of society that’s busier than ever: philanthropy."

New York Times: "In Philanthropy, Race Is Still a Factor in Who Gets What, Study Shows" — "Philanthropy often sets out to mitigate inequality. But a research report set to be released next week by two leading philanthropic organizations shows that race remains a defining factor when looking at which organizations get funded and how much they receive."

Columbia University's Earth Institute: "The Role of Philanthropy During the Coronavirus Pandemic" — "In crisis, we often see philanthropy in action, such as donations following a hurricane or earthquake. Individuals band together, and contribute to relieve daunting circumstances. Philanthropic institutions — grantmaking foundations — also tend to direct some attention to respond to crises."

Quartz: "The US isn’t using data that could save people from getting coronavirus" — "While we may not have seen the novel coronavirus and Covid-19 respiratory disease before, we have certainly seen the damage infectious disease threats pose. When I led the US response in West Africa to the Ebola outbreak, I saw the cost of disease firsthand. I also saw how leveraging technology and real-time data—during the Ebola crisis this was information from cellphones— enabled public health authorities to help direct limited resources to people and health systems in the greatest need, and ultimately stem the spread of that deadly disease."

The New Yorker: "How Greenwich Republicans Learned to Love Trump" — "Prescott Bush, the father and grandfather of future Presidents, was the eight-time club champion on the golf course at the Round Hill Club, one of eight country clubs in Greenwich, Connecticut. Bush was a staunch believer in standards; he required his sons to wear a jacket and tie for dinner at home."

Face The Nation: "4 things to know about coronavirus testing with Dr. Rajiv Shah of the Rockefeller Foundation" — "The Rockefeller Foundation, led by former USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah, recently launched an ambitious plan to drastically ramp up COVID-19 testing nationwide over the next few weeks."

Newsweek: "Why the Coronavirus Pandemic is Philanthropy's Big Moment" — "This is philanthropy's shining moment. The pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 is exactly the kind of challenge for which philanthropy is ideally suited, and philanthropists realize it. They're stepping up big time."

Stanford Social Innovation Review: "Overcoming the Racial Bias in Philanthropic Funding" — "A Native American-led nonprofit organization was recently up for a grant renewal. Its CEO had hoped the process would be routine. After all, his organization had been a grantee of the foundation for 25 years and part of the program officer’s portfolio for almost eight years. Yet he still found himself having to defend his organization’s approach and its demonstrated success."

Chalkbeat: "Will COVID-19 change the norms of education philanthropy? We hope so." — "In the midst of a crisis, there is a tendency to look for rays of hope for a better future. In the case of the coronavirus pandemic, we are optimistic that some of the temporary changes we are seeing in how the philanthropic world is operating now might lead to long-term improvements in educational giving."

The Economist: "Covid-19 exposes American philanthropy’s strengths and weaknesses" — "The coronavirus has thrown many of the ills of American society into sharp relief: slow decision-making, inequality and a safety-net full of holes. A superpower that should have been well prepared to fight the pandemic is floundering instead. Yet the virus has also shown how far Americans will go to help one another."

Vox: "Tech billionaires are already mounting a pressure campaign to prevent the next pandemic" — "Hillary Clinton wore a black breathing mask imprinted with the word “VOTE” in Twitter and Instagram posts this weekend, posing in what appeared as a homespun effort to pitch “the must-have accessory for spring.” The posts bear an unassuming hashtag: #MaskingForAFriend."

This program aired on May 12, 2020.


Adam Waller Freelance Producer
Adam Waller is a freelance producer for On Point.


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Meghna Chakrabarti Host, On Point
Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.



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