The coronavirus pandemic exposed a great many underlying issues across America, perhaps none more eye-opening than the fact that underserved communities were harder hit than most. Minority communities, the poor, the homeless and the elderly all saw more than their share of cases, and the pandemic exacerbated disparities. While most businesses found it difficult to make ends meet throughout the spring and into the early summer, nonprofit organizations struggled mightily to serve their constituents and keep their doors open.
Nonprofit organizations rely almost exclusively on fundraising to support their missions, and with so many Americans out of work or furloughed, the work of nonprofit fundraisers became even more critical. Unfortunately, fundraising for most nonprofits was made even more difficult because so many donors redirected their donations to urgent community needs, including food banks and medical supplies. And while this is understandable, most nonprofits provide services that are not directly tied to the pandemic. No less important to a healthy and viable community, not too many people felt the same urgent need to fund animal shelters, environmental groups, legal services, and arts and culture groups, to name a few.
Across the country, nonprofits have been forced to cancel or rethink fundraising events like galas and walks, while at the same time private and corporate foundations have either paused grantmaking or redirected funds to the COVID-19 response. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act helped in the short term for those nonprofits that were able to get help, but, as it was widely reported, those funds ran out quickly.
Despite these challenges, Arizonans stepped up in a big way earlier this year during the state’s annual giving day on April 7. Arizona Gives Day 2020 raised more than $6 million for Arizona nonprofits, shattering last year’s total of $3.6 million. Nearly 39,000 Arizonans donated to a record-shattering 913 nonprofit organizations during the drive, which included $150,757 donated directly to the Nonprofit Emergency Relief Fund in response to COVID-19.
This record-breaking fundraiser proved that even during a time of crisis the citizens of Arizona understand the important role of nonprofits in the state. But this should not surprise anyone given the nature of philanthropy in America. In fact, not long after Arizona Gives Day, Fidelity Charitable conducted a survey of philanthropic individuals to see how they are thinking about philanthropy in response to the pandemic and how the situation could affect their giving and volunteering behaviors moving forward. The survey showed that most individual donors planned to maintain — or even increase — the amount they donate to charity this year. The majority of donors surveyed also said that, while they are worried about the impact of COVID-19 on the health and human services sector, the concern is also high for organizations in all charitable sectors.
For nonprofit organizations to continue their critical work in Arizona, they will continue to rely on donations from individuals, foundations and the business community. These philanthropic relationships are more important than ever in the post-pandemic environment. Supporting nonprofits is not just an altruistic endeavor, but a thriving nonprofit sector is a powerful economic driver that impacts the overall success of Arizona itself.
Len Gutman is the Foundation Relations Advisor at American Heart Association