New Report: $11.9B in COVID-19 Philanthropy Tops Giving for Other Past Disasters

But only 5% were explicitly designated for color, older adults and other vulnerable populations most affected by the pandemic

Washington and New York (Aug. 26, 2020) — The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities worldwide was swift, hard and devastating especially on the most vulnerable people. Amid tragedies and hardship, how did the world’s largest grantmakers and donors respond?

A new report by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) and Candid found an unprecedented amount of philanthropic disaster giving led by a group of donors that stepped up to meet immediate critical needs and services arising from the pandemic in the U.S. and abroad.

However, gaps in funding in several vital areas offer substantial opportunities for funders to invest in equitable long-term recovery, especially in communities that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

COVID-19 philanthropy surpassed other disaster giving
According to “Philanthropy and COVID-19 in the First Half of 2020,” more than $11.9 billion in philanthropic funding was awarded for COVID-19-related, which dwarfed grants awarded for other recent disasters. COVID-19 funding was more than 16 times funding for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Dorian and the Australian bushfires—combined.

COVID-19 philanthropy has exceeded funding for other recent disasters.

“The data confirms that philanthropy mobilized quickly and responded generously as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe,” said Grace Sato, director of research at Candid. “Although not a complete picture of the global philanthropic response, this report offers some insight into funding thus far and can help inform foundations and private donors in their future pandemic-related giving.”

Corporate giving accounted for nearly two-thirds of philanthropic funding at nearly $7.9 billion. This was led by Google, which gave more than $1.2 billion in cash and in-kind support.

Among independent foundations, the top funders included The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Open Society Foundations.

High-net worth individuals also contributed significant amounts, including a $1 billion commitment by Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey. Individual donors increased their giving through donor-advised funds such as those managed by Fidelity Charitable and Schwab Charitable.

Report highlights funding gaps
To boost impact, funders can reverse some troubling trends such as:

  • Despite many foundations’ commitment to providing flexible support for grantees, few awards in the data set were specifically identified as general support.
  • Only 5% of grant dollars that specified recipients identified Black, Indigenous or other communities of color as beneficiaries despite these populations being disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
  • Public health organizations received 80% of the $476.4 billion in health funding whereas less than 2% went to mental health organizations.

“We have seen incredible generosity since the outbreak of the pandemic,” said Regine A. Webster, vice president of CDP. “Yet, we in the philanthropic community must push ourselves to give more and give smarter. The economic, social and health impacts of the pandemic will outpace every donated dollar unless we support the most vulnerable among us.”

6 ways to maximize philanthropic impact
As the pandemic continues, CDP recommends funders take these steps to support the most vulnerable populations and address immediate and long-term needs:

  • Support local groups with a focus on communities of color, older adults, disabled persons and other vulnerable populations.
  • Provide unrestricted support to give current grantees flexibility to use funding where it is needed most.
  • Allow current grantees to shift restricted grants to general operating support.
  • Give to existing funds that can quickly distribute grants to local organizations.
  • Partner with other funders.
  • Fund land trusts to help maintain affordable housing.

Philanthropy and COVID-19 in the First Half of 2020” analyzes data from publicly available announcements and direct reporting of pledges, commitments, and grants. It is the first of two reports that will examine the latest COVID-19-related philanthropic data to identify top funders, issue areas, recipients, and other giving trends. The full brief is available at

About the Center for Disaster Philanthropy
The Center for Disaster Philanthropy leverages the power of philanthropy to mobilize a full range of resources that strengthen the ability of communities to withstand disasters and recover equitably when they occur. It manages domestic and international disaster funds on behalf of corporations, foundations and individuals through targeted, holistic and localized grantmaking. CDP has disbursed almost $15 million to more than 100 organizations in the U.S. and abroad through its various funds. For more information, visit: or tweet us @funds4disaster.

About Candid
Every year, millions of nonprofits spend trillions of dollars around the world. Candid finds out where that money comes from, where it goes, and why it matters. Through research, collaboration and training, Candid connects people who want to change the world to the resources they need to do it. Candid’s data tools on nonprofits, foundations and grants are the most comprehensive in the world. Foundation Center and GuideStar joined forces to become Candid, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Find out more at and on Twitter @CandidDotOrg.


The Center for Disaster Philanthropy mobilizes philanthropy to strengthen communities’ ability to withstand disasters and recover equitably when they occur. It provides expert advice and resources while managing domestic and international disaster funds on behalf of corporations, foundations and individuals through targeted, holistic and localized grantmaking. Find out more at and on Twitter @funds4disaster.