Hurricane Sandy: Roadmap for Responding to Covid
As Covid hit, many nonprofit experts fretted that there was no playbook for dealing with such a complex health and economic crisis.
But nonprofits and foundations in New York knew differently: They have been putting into effect what they learned after Hurricane Sandy and using networks they built then to strengthen the response now. They had also quickly realized that Covid and Sandy were similar because they exposed tremendous racial and economic equities in the region.
The Sandy experience is a key reason grant makers are turning to small, community-based organizations. Research conducted by prominent scholars found that they were far more effective than the big national organizations.
Sandy also pushed grant makers to disburse money quickly to grantees, streamline grant processes, and think in new ways about how to identify the greatest needs.
The Brooklyn Community Foundation says it realized it needed to beat its Sandy giving speed in Covid. Over 16 weeks, the foundation issued 420 grants totaling $3.3 million. It asked only two questions of applicants for aid:
- Is your organization responding to the Covid crisis?
- And how does your group’s work address racial equity?
Cecilia Clarke, CEO of the Brooklyn fund, says both crises have taught her the importance of supporting advocacy efforts that focus on persuading governments to meet long-term needs.
“Philanthropy can shine a light on the issues and the populations the government is clearly not thinking about,” she says. “To get the government’s attention, you’ve got to put as much stuff in front of them as possible. That’s activism and advocacy. And that’s how philanthropy can be useful.”
Another idea from Sandy that has gained traction: giving cash to the needy.
For example, the grant maker Robin Hood in New York is distributing cash to individuals, focusing on households with a wage earner who is hospitalized.
“This is about agency. This is about respecting people,” says Emary Aronson, chief knowledge officer and senior adviser to the CEO at Robin Hood. “We are saying you are making what are the best decisions for you.”
Charities Nationwide Gain Trust for Their Crisis Response
Forty percent of registered voters say nonprofits have done a better job responding to the needs created by Covid-19 than the federal government or businesses, according to a new poll of registered voters sponsored by Independent Sector.
Biden’s Tax Plan: Changes for Those in Need — and Those Who Support Nonprofits
There’s a lot for nonprofits to like in Joe Biden’s tax proposals to help the neediest, but his plan to limit the value of itemized deductions for those making $400,000 or more could hurt giving, reports Ben Gose.
The proposal could land hardest on universities, arts institutions, and other charities that rely heavily on big gifts from the wealthiest Americans. “Every nonprofit that gets resources from the top 1 percent of donors should be extremely concerned,” says Arthur Brooks, the former head of the American Enterprise Institute who is now a Harvard professor.
However, other aspects of the Biden plan, such as boosting the capital-gains tax, might increase donations, experts say.
Aaron Dorfman, president of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, says that even if Biden’s plan mildly reduced giving, that’s not sufficient reason for charities to oppose it.
“Too often the analyses of what proposed tax policies will do for the nonprofit sector don’t take into account the substantial role that government plays in meeting the needs of society,” Dorfman says. “We need to think holistically about any tax policy that gets proposed — not simply judge it based on whether it will increase or decrease revenue to nonprofits.”