In early 2020 philanthropy expert David Callahan shared a prediction that came true, and changed our world. Here’s eight lessons from the unprecedented year that was.

Lessons learned

This time last year it had been less than a week since WHO had declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Lockdown and social distancing restrictions were rolling out across Australia. We were just days away from closing our borders to non-residents. The Ruby Princess would soon spill out 2,700 passengers into Sydney, leading to a public health crisis. Closure of non-essential services and schools was imminent. We’d soon hear and come to rely on the word ‘Jobkeeper’. Self-isolation and quarantine became part of life in the coronavirus era. 

 As the pandemic was quietly percolating, the founder of the influential US-based website, Inside Philanthropy, David Callahan, shared 16 predictions for the 2020sDavid’s final prediction was: major crisis will catalysdramatic change in philanthropy. 

“So while I don’t like saying this aloud, my prediction is that something really bad is going to happen in the 2020s—something like a paralysing cyber attack, a devastating hurricane that takes out a major US city, a constitutional crisis that ruptures the union, or a global pandemic,” David wrote. 

That did indeed happen, and it is sobering to think that we could still be subject to any of the other really bad things David predicted. 

 On the upside, he noted that it would force philanthropy to “embrace far greater urgency in its work.”  

Still in the grip of the pandemic, especially in the US (but with the rollout of vaccines offering some hope), Inside Philanthropy recently shared eight lessons from one year of COVID philanthropy: 

  1. Philanthropy can move fast 
  2. But fast isn’t always better 
  3. Intersectionality is everything 
  4. It’s OK just to give people money 
  5. The super-rich are still (mostly) stingy 
  6. Good signs for funder organising and collaboration 
  7. Forget big philanthropy for a second—what about small philanthropy? 
  8. This story isn’t over 

 Predictions are of course speculative, but we do know at least one thing – one day the pandemic will be over. 

As the author of this article writes: “It’s hard to predict how philanthropy will fare in the post-pandemic era, and whether these trends and lessons will hold. Nevertheless, I think we can be fairly certain that the pandemic will leave a mark, and that many aspects of the old normal will not return. 

Join us at Generosity Forum for an insightful session with one of the world’s leading experts in philanthropy and the author of several books including The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age. 

Also at the Generosity Forum find out from John McLeod if JBWere’s estimate of a fall in giving of nearly 12% in 2021 is still on track in his session, The State of the Philanthropic Nation. 

And join FIA Arthur Venn Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Wendy Scaife, as in her evidence-based session on us what donors want 

All this and much more at Generosity Forum, 23-25 March. 


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