The racial equity movement has occasioned meaningful and unparalleled reflection, discourse, and action within the nonprofit and philanthropic sector.

According to CCS Fundraising’s internal analysis of domestic trends, over $3.67 billion was publicly donated to racial equity and related causes in the weeks following the killing of George Floyd. This sum rivals the $3.7 billion in publicly reported U.S. donations to COVID-19. Philanthropy of this scale will create enduring changes in communities from coast to coast.

To understand more about the local perspective and mark the release of Giving USA 2020: The Annual Report on Philanthropy, CCS Fundraising hosted conversations across the nation with regional leaders and experts in the field. Throughout our panel discussions in the Northeast, we heard three emerging trends:

  • Donors and nonprofit professionals have a renewed commitment to the systems-change impact model
  • Corporations are supporting local communities in unprecedented ways
  • Individuals continue to be a large source of support for critical funding needs

Philanthropy is Focusing on Systems Change

Philanthropists have always had to decide whether their funding should support short-term activity-based projects or long-term systems-change projects. Historically, funding has predominantly supported the former; in a report released by McKinsey earlier this year, more than 70% of funders were found to actively discourage systems-change approaches through methods like restrictive funding and program requirements.

However, recent events have shed a light on the systemic and long-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on marginalized communities. Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan, Board Member of the Boston Foundation and President and CEO of DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement and Catalyst Institute, encouraged panel attendees to embrace this shift towards a systems-change mindset. “It focuses less on serving the immediate issue at hand, but rather why the issue might exist in the first place and what systems created them,” Dr. Minter-Jordan said. “We need to understand the processes that inform the systems through educating ourselves. In terms of the bigger picture, we can further our understanding by looking at the local level and paying attention to grassroots organizations. It is important we engage people along the way, too, with realistic expectations. If we can make change at the core, we will see the most progress.”

Corporations are Stepping Up

Some of America’s largest corporations are stepping up to help overcome the economic and healthcare disadvantages faced by marginalized communities.

2019 was a record year for corporate philanthropy, which experienced a 13% growth rate. More recently, corporations have made unprecedented gifts toward the racial justice movement. Bank of America is among the most notable corporate donors, pledging $1 billion over four years to support economic and racial inequities accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bill Hatfield, Rhode Island Market President of Bank of America, spoke about the future of corporate giving during our panel. “There remains a very significant opportunity for businesses to collaborate at the local level and ensure that they are aligned to key community needs,” said Hatfield.  “Business has to play a bigger role. It has to be more influential and needs to be at the table with greater level of contribution to support the change that is needed.”

Individuals Continue to Drive Giving

During times of crisis, major corporate and foundation gifts are prominently announced and featured. That generosity is to be celebrated, but the data shows us that, historically, individual giving drives philanthropy and is an important way that many people express their values. A recent survey from Gallup noted that 73% of Americans reported giving to charity last year, which is more engagement than in almost any other civic activity – including voting.

This moment is no different, as we see individuals educating themselves and donating to causes related to race and marginalization, including economic opportunity, housing, healthcare (including mental health programs), food security, education, and many others.

There has been over $157 million in crowd-sourced grassroots funding from tens of millions of individuals via the internet, as well as single, large-sum contributions such as the $120 million gift made by Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, to support the United Negro College Fund, Spelman College, and Morehouse College.

Dan Crewe, philanthropist and President of The Bob Crewe Foundation, has led the way for philanthropists in Maine looking to learn and lead. “I’m fortunate to sit on the boards of Maine College of Art, USM Foundation, Portland Symphony Orchestra, and the ACLU of Maine. A few years ago, some of my acquaintances and I entered into discussions that opened my eyes to my own life of privilege. When I read Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to be an Anti-Racist, I realized how much I had never known,” said Crewe. “White society is in an awakening. How does this affect what we’re doing? We have supported communities of color in an indirect way through the arts, but now we are taking a closer look at how to be open to new ways to participate in this societal change.”

Looking Ahead

For those of us who work in the non-profit sector, the events of recent months have highlighted that our missions are more important and more urgent than ever. In past moments of crisis, uncertainty, and societal change, we’ve seen that philanthropy is both resilient and responsive.

CCS interviews thousands of donors around the world each year on behalf of our clients. The number one reason – consistently – that people say they give is to make an impact. This reason consistently ranks above tax benefits, moral/religious obligation, or a sense of duty to their community. During this time of physical distancing, now is the moment to stay connected with your donors, welcome them into the challenging conversations, and invite them to make an impact through and with your organization.

To access our full suite of perspectives, publications, and reports, visit our insights page. To learn more about CCS Fundraising’s suite of services, click here.

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About the Author

CCS Fundraising is a strategic fundraising consulting firm that partners with nonprofits for transformational change. Members of the CCS team are highly experienced and knowledgeable across sectors, disciplines, and regions. With offices throughout the United States and the world, our unique, customized approach provides each client with an embedded team member for the duration of the engagement.