During 2020, when the Covid crisis was at its peak, many grassroots community groups faced a massive increase in demand at a time when their normal fundraising activities were seriously curtailed. Covid’s pressure on society was unprecedented. More and more people, from right across the social spectrum, suddenly found themselves in need – with the demand on food banks in particular shooting up as people were unable to work, excluded from furlough and still with families to feed. Without supportive local community groups, there was often nowhere else for people to turn.
In response, donors, large and small, rallied around to help those most greatly affected the disease, the lockdowns and the enormous loss. The greatest example is probably the inspirational Captain Sir Tom Moore whose example meant nearly £40m was raised for NHS charities.
Likewise, in response to the very real possibility of voluntary organisations going under through no fault of their own, donors like the Julia and Hans Rausing Trust and the Garfield Weston Foundation leapt in to help charities that were on the verge of collapse, with fast, responsive, unrestricted gifts to help them keep the lights on and the services running. This was crucial given the role they play in providing immediate support, practical assistance and encouragement to the vulnerable and at risk. These services really make the difference. They save people's sanity and often, their lives.
Responding to immediate need is a key motivation for giving as we know – crisis appeals succeed through showing how a small amount of money can get food on tables, blankets in cots and coats on the backs of those without any means to obtain these things otherwise. It is attractive, of course, to invest philanthropic pounds on addressing the underlying causes of problems, rather than simply dealing with the symptoms. But immediate need has always been with us – and this is not likely to change any time soon.
As Cathy Pharoah has pointed out, Covid-19 may have given an impetus to the largest donors to change the way they give. She writes “...there is some evidence to suggest that the harsh light which the pandemic has thrown onto the persisting injustices in our society may be shifting philanthropic attitudes....... Covid-19 [had] its greatest impact on women, black and minority ethnic people and the most deprived communities. The £3 billion gift of MacKenzie Scott is a dramatic example of major HNW philanthropy shifting its focus to immediate welfare alleviation. It's a call-to-action targeted at the daily life experience of those most in need”.
At Ajaz.org, we are starting in our mission to support families, children and parents going through challenging times. Our work is all about immediate support, and we are encountering exceptional people who provide this for others, with great love, expertise and respect, every day. We will be sharing more news of the organisations we support and the eco-systems of encouragement they create, both for those who come for help and for those who act as volunteers.
These communities provide hope and crucial connections for us all, at a time when the world's problems seem way too big for anyone to solve. They are places where a difference can be made, every day, by anyone, by all of us.