Last Sunday, I spent some time on LinkedIn looking for blogs or articles about how to respond as a leader, or non-profit to the COVID-19 Pandemic. There was so much about “uncertainty,” including messages from firms reassuring me that they still wanted my business. I only found one post from my friend Jennifer Harris on “Love in the time of Corona.”
Inspired, I started writing my thoughts and wrote about Certainty and how there are many things that remain certain in these times. This led to a list of Ten Things We Can Do to build relationships and community when we cannot meet physically.
A week later, a similar review of LinkedIn offered many great articles and blogs related to generous responses to COVID-19. For #example, my friend Jim Langley provides a timeless perspective about focusing on relationships. He advocates a long-term point of view to best enable an organization to deliver on its mission.
Now we see inspiring stories of national, global and local responses undertaken by individuals, organizations and even governments. Around the world, celebrities are pledging millions of dollars to addressing need. Motivated by a deep desire to help, not to make money, these responses represent the creative, instinctual, multifaceted and organic ways that philanthropy grows.
Big companies are shifting production to better meet needs for materials, ventilators, food, and other essentials. They are donating millions of dollars’ worth of product where the need is great and where what they have can help. In Singapore, the Ministry of Manpower staff worked around the clock for days to secure accommodation and defrayed costs for 10,000 foreign workers after they were stranded following a lockdown of borders with Malaysia.
Universities are focusing research to better understand COVID-19, its causes and effective treatments. They are developing and processing tests for better and faster diagnoses. Higher education has put course-work on line. University medical centres are on the front lines of treatment, diagnosis and research that can slow the spread, flatten the curve and keep more of us safe. These institutions are examples of decision making based on evidence and expert knowledge. Research on public and economic policy, and technology advancements will serve society as we emerge from this pandemic.
Community foundations are offering funding and grants to local non-profits who are caring for the most vulnerable in their communities. The community groups in small towns capture my heart for their efforts, and I want to provide a shout out to The Cass County Community Foundation and the work they are doing. This work is replicated in hundreds of communities around the world. I encourage you to find one in your community and support their efforts.
Arts organizations are responding by providing on-line content for free. It is possible to take on-line tours of many of the great museums of the world. Music organizations are providing free streaming of concerts since large gatherings are not allowed. One of my favourite examples is the Richmond Symphony Orchestra in Richmond, IN, whose leadership is finding new ways to deliver their mission.
People are looking out for one another. Freely streamed yoga sessions help with the stress of uncertainty and working from home; on-line music lessons keep children on track; and YouTube church services are ubiquitous. Those with sewing skills are sewing “designer masks” for care givers to use. A friend in Chicago has a number of elderly neighbours put together and delivered “care packages” with essentials, including toilet paper, to help them through this time.
Not all giving involves funding, but all giving is an expression of love, kindness, and encouragement. This is what Philanthropy (love of humankind) is all about. This is Charity (expressing unconditional love for others) at its best. It is thousands and millions of people recognizing our common humanity, doing what we can, with what we have, where we are. The needs of our world, our communities, and each person’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being are met by an outpouring of love.
Some donors will be recognized and praised for what they do. Their gifts will have a direct impact and will inspire others to act and to give with their example. Most donors will be unsung. Either way, the reward is the joy of making a positive difference. Together we are making our world a better place with our expressions of love for one another.
It is exciting to see the sheer breadth and depth of generosity in action. The creativity, the myriad of needs addressed in ways that are bespoke to the need. This is the democratic nature of philanthropy, where each donor gets to choose where they want to give.
“There are those who give little of the much which they have…And there are those who have little and give it all. These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty…There are those who give with joy…And there are those who give…as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space….And to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving.”Kahlil Gibran – The Prophet