Greater Good Blog

Prioritizing Equity in COVID-19 Relief Efforts

Shannon Stagman and Julie Slay
Prioritizing Equity in COVID-19 Relief Efforts

As the coronavirus pandemic has unfolded, philanthropists and foundations have found numerous ways to respond, providing fast relief to a variety of communities. Our learning and evaluation team were curious about how philanthropy was managing to respond successfully to rapidly emerging needs, so we looked to Arabella’s own support of philanthropists pivoting to respond to the COVID crisis to learn more.

Arabella has worked closely with our clients to determine the best way for them to give during this crisis, helping them match their values with urgent developing needs. Our clients have provided PPE, ventilators, and other medical supplies to hard hit communities; removed reporting requirements and restrictions on funds to existing grantees and moved up the timing of future grant cycles; created funds to support small businesses forced to shut down due to stay at home orders; expanded their portfolios to include giving in sectors hardest hit by COVID-19; and facilitated direct cash transfers to individuals and families, including those without access to a bank account.

While the sector, scope, and ultimate goals of these projects varied, there was one common thread across them all: the need to center equity in response efforts in order to best identify real community needs, improve assessment and decision-making processes, and effectively accelerate relief.

As the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded, the importance of this approach, which entails intentionally cultivating empathy and acknowledging and addressing power dynamics, has only become more evident. In reviewing the recent work our firm has been doing to support philanthropies with their COVID-related giving, we have quickly identified some smart practices that we recommend other funders keep in mind as they consider any relief effort.

In the end, bringing an equity lens to bear throughout philanthropic work is essential to responding both effectively and quickly to support communities in times of crisis. As the recent work of many of our clients shows, these goals—moving quickly, moving effectively, and centering equity—are by no means mutually exclusive. Just the opposite: they are often all necessary factors for accomplishing real impact goals.

About the Authors: Shannon Stagman, M.A., is an Associate Director and member of Arabella Advisors’ Learning and Evaluation practice. Julie Slay, PhD, has led the Learning and Evaluation Practice for six years. She and her team help philanthropists and their partners to reflect and learn by gathering, organizing, and synthesizing relevant information to help them go from idea to impact.

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