COVID-19, Generosity, and Gender: How Giving Changed During the Early Months of a Global Pandemic

This report from Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy’s Women’s Philanthropy Institute offers a snapshot of how U.S. households responded to the COVID-19 pandemic through philanthropy. Beyond examining whether and how much households contributed, the report explores the types of philanthropy in which they participated and how their charitable giving changed. The study also pinpoints the effect of specific elements of the crisis on their giving. Finally, to provide a more nuanced picture of philanthropic responses to the pandemic, the report highlights differences across household types, with a particular focus on gender and marital status. 

The findings serve as a starting point for understanding changes in individual giving in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as it continues to unfold. While research on philanthropy in the aftermath of disasters and during economic recessions offers takeaways on how household giving might change, the distinct features of the “dual crises” of a global pandemic and accompanying economic downturn defy comparison with previous events. This study provides new insight on how U.S. households responded philanthropically in this unique environment. The findings can help nonprofit and fundraising practitioners adjust their individual giving strategies as the current crisis continues, as well as inform their approaches to future crises.