Re-Positioning Philanthropy in the face of COVID 19

The impact of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID 19) has had different effects to the development space; recognizing this, EAPN carried out a research to examine theImpact and Implications of COVID 19 for Philanthropy work in East Africa.

The impact of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID 19) has had different effects on the development space; recognizing this, EAPN carried out research to examine the impact and Implications of COVID 19 for Philanthropy work in East Africa between October and December of 2020. The research sought to identify emerging trends, practices and adaptations/ repositioning that the philanthropy sector has adapted as a result of COVID 19 and lessons learnt from this experience. The study drew key informants from philanthropy organizations in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

All respondents adhered to the Ministry of Health protocols, except in Tanzania where this was short-lived. Over 95% of the organizations that participated in this study indicated they have been affected by the COVID 19 pandemic. Of these, 89% of the respondents reported facing funding disruptions like a reduction in funding. However, in some cases, there was an increase in additional funding for COVID 19 responses. There was a noted increase in a number of philanthropy actors receiving resources from local sources, while those receiving funds from international sources declined in 2020 compared to 2019. This implies a step towards closing the gap between international and local funding sources.

As expected, mobile money and bank transfers were the leading channels of giving, followed by online means. Credit cards were the least used. The limited use of both online channels and credit cards highlights a gap in the utilization of information and communication technology (ICT) in the promotion of local philanthropy. Further, there was a significant reduction in the number of benefactors who channelled resources through local/national organizations in 2020 during the COVID 19 period as compared to 2019. This shift in fund recipients could be due to the (perceived) existence of suitable giving channels and accountability structures within the INGOs, Trusts/ Foundations and Government. In addition, there was greater trust in the technical capacity of the state and international NGOs to address the complexities and sensitivities around COVID 19 responses.

Predictably, health and livelihood development topped the list in sectors where resources were channelled. In the same breadth, allocations towards emergency support increased. On the other hand, there was a notable decline in allocation towards education (14%) and food security (6%) over the same period.

Most participating entities turned to remote/virtual follow-up in response to the COVID 19 movement restrictions. The most commonly used (remote) monitoring and reporting means included online review meetings, updates and briefings; sharing of photos and videos; and data entry into online donor reporting portals/ templates. It further emerged that smaller organizations were unable to adequately invest in needed system changes, ICT and other organizational infrastructure, with some being temporarily cut off from accessing communities.

The study also observed some indications of shifting power balances of relations between funders and grantees. This was exemplified by cases of grants becoming less restricted; simpler/more flexible grant application processes; funders being more amenable to requests for budgetary reallocations; as well as greater acknowledgement of grantees’ greater context knowledge.

On institutional adaptations, it emerged that there is a need for continued capacity development to enhance institutional resilience; diversify the resource base, and especially increase locally generated resources to enhance financial independence, stability and continuity; as well as the establishment of financial reserves, endowments or savings. To sustain (local) giving, there is a need to engage in structured marketing and strategic communications about the sector and its work; adequately investing in relationship building with existing and potential benefactors; besides forging strategic partnerships and collaboration with complementary actors. For these adaptations to effectively take off, organizations need to enhance structures for compliance, governance, and accountability; advocating for an operating environment supportive of philanthropy; as well as invest in ICT-driven creativity and innovation.

The report further highlights the following recommendations for building philanthropy resilience and response to the pandemic:

  1. Invest in promotion, conscientization and public awareness of organized philanthropy and building relevance, legitimacy, image and credibility, as well as trust and confidence with key stakeholders.
  2. Continue advocacy with policy makers towards ensuring conducive legal, policy and institutional environments.
  3. Explore strategic opportunities (spaces, places, platforms) for cross-sectoral collaboration towards learning, research, intelligence sharing, advocacy and joint resource mobilization.
  4. Capacity development to enhance institutional resilience.
  5. Continuous strengthening of research, documentation, knowledge generation, reflection, learning, strategizing, and intelligence gathering capacity.
  6. Greater investments in ICT-driven innovations.