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Giving Back During a Pandemic

US $100 bills and a stack of quarters. Ben Franklin is wearing a blue COVID mask on one bill.

By Chris Askin CSPG, CFRE
President & CEO

The pandemic has been exhausting. And frightening. And constraining. Yet in spite of the restrictions we’ve all faced in our movements, in access to places and people, and interruptions to work, travel, and much more, philanthropy and volunteerism have thrived. Somehow during this most difficult time, a third of affluent households volunteered, and these same households reported higher giving amounts. Although this was a decrease in volunteerism from a typical year, where nearly half of this population volunteers, I was struck by the dedication to helping others that continued during the pandemic, in spite of personal risk.

According to an annual study conducted by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, the average amount given to charity by affluent donors increased by 48% in 2020. With the economy in turmoil, particularly at the start of the pandemic, giving to basic needs charities were supported by the greatest proportion of affluent households.

Issues-Based Giving
Another notable change last year was that donors reported that their motivation for giving shifted more towards issues-based giving, whereas previously most donors reported that their motivation for giving had been more driven by the organizations they support. This change was most pronounced in younger donors. When asked to select three issues that were most important to them, the most frequently cited were education, health care, climate change, poverty/income inequality and animal rights. Nearly a quarter of affluent donors gave to organizations supporting social justice and racial injustice causes, citing increased awareness of these issues.

Use of Giving Vehicles
One trend the Lilly Family study reported, which we noticed here at the Community Foundation, was the increased use of “giving vehicles” – trusts, donor advised funds, giving circles, etc. Affluent families in our region established a number of charitable trusts in 2020, and we saw an uptick in bequest arrangements that involve the Community Foundation. This matches the study that reported a 31% increase in the number of families that added a specific charitable provision in their will. There was also a 40% increase in the number of affluent families who set up a donor advised fund. Surprisingly to me, younger affluent individuals were significantly more likely to explore using one of these giving vehicles than older individuals.

Impact Investing
Impact investing was another area that saw rather epic changes in 2020. Impact investing is the choice to invest in ways that are socially responsible. Prior to the pandemic only 7% of affluent families invested in this way, and that nearly doubled to 13%. The Community Foundation has some local impact investments with an investment return better than we can find in the current fixed-income market, so over the past couple of years this has been even a larger win-win than we thought possible. We continue to explore ways that we can use our investments locally, while maintaining or increasing our investment return.

It is clear that there are many surprising outcomes from events that challenge us, and the pandemic has been a challenge unlike anything most of us have seen in our lifetimes. As many families have become better educated about community needs, and ways to give back, the Community Foundation of Northern Nevada has been here to help. Whether your family is affluent or not, we are honored to be a part of your plan to give back.  

If you'd like more information, call our team at (775) 333-5499 or email here.

The Community Foundation of Northern Nevada is strengthening our community through philanthropy and leadership by connecting people who care with causes that matter.

November 6, 2021