Donor-advised funds step up in pandemic

Two years ago this month, a number of new words and phrases entered our daily lexicon: COVID-19. Pandemic. Herd immunity. Flattening the curve.

Two years. And now lingering into the start of a third.

We’ve seen some ugly things result: Anger over masks. Shortages of supplies. Confusion over ever-changing recommendations. Yet we’ve also seen some good things result: Communities pulling together. A renewed appreciation for the work of health care providers and first responders. And people giving more to help others.

A survey mirrors across the nation what the Community Foundation of Jackson County found here at home —advisors of donor-advised funds stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic through 2020 and into 2021. We expect to see the same here in 2022.

We agree with President CEO Eileen R. Heisman of the National Philanthropic Trust: “In spite of the chaos and heartbreak, the pandemic has underscored a simple fact: People care deeply about each other.”

The organization’s “ DAF COVID Grantmaking Survey ” found that in the United States the philanthropic response to COVID-19 was stunning, with charitable, caring Americans supporting crisis service organizations, research institutions working to find a vaccine, personal fundraisers for the sick or unemployed and community-based groups serving the most vulnerable.

Here in Jackson County, donor-advised fund advisors recommended generous grants during the pandemic, including those to Anchor House, the Boys Girls Club of Seymour, Community Provisions, Girls Inc. of Seymour, local fire departments and others.

For some, grants to those and other agencies were first-time awards spurred by the pandemic’s reach and hurtful impact. Other advisors increased their giving to those organizations as a result of the pandemic putting a great strain and demand on their already often tight resources.

“These organizations are important assets in our community, and helping them and others meet their needs and provide the work they offer is why the fund was created,” Fred Moritz of Seymour said. “Our family wants to be of help in our community.”

He oversees grant recommendations from the fund established by his father, the Everett V. and Maria Moritz Fund, to benefit the community. He recommended grants to support COVID-19 response work during 2020.

“With COVID-19 disrupting so many lives, we had to do something to help any way that we could,” Moritz said.

Anticipating the negative fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic on Jackson County residents and the agencies that serve those in need, the foundation acted quickly to establish the COVID-19 Jackson County Response Fund in March 2020.

The foundation seeded the fund with a $15,000 Impact Grant from the Jackson County Unrestricted Endowment. The fund received an additional $19,300 in gifts and grants from donors and fund advisors concerned about the community. Overall, the COVID-19 Jackson County Response Fund awarded 17 grants totaling $30,647.09.

Other gifts into the fund and directed toward COVID relief include grants from five of the foundation’s donor-advised funds: The Janet L. and Gary F. Myers Charitable Fund, the Dennis and Nancy Sterling Fund, the Dave Ann Windley Fund, the Jim Schneider Memorial Fund and the Moritz Fund.

Among grant recipients from donor-advised funds were Gleaners, which in cooperation with Anchor House brought mobile food pantries to the community; Waymaker Ministries, which helped fight homelessness, mental health issues and food insecurity; Jackson County EMS and Seymour Fire Department, both of which received a backpack fogger to decontaminate their ambulances and medical response trucks; and Boys Girls Club of Seymour, which received a grant for a battery-operated backpack sanitizer to clean the club.

The national survey found donor-advised funds increased grant-making support for all types of charities. There are eight charitable subsectors — categories that charities use to define their core mission like arts, health and education. All eight, and a very small category of “other,” all received more grants in the first half of 2020 than they did in the first half of 2019.

Grant dollars, which increased 29.8% in total, increased to organizations in every charitable subsector except the arts. Grant dollars rose by 78.9% to human services charities from $663 million to $1.19 billion. The human services charitable subsector can include food distribution groups, homeless shelters and public safety organizations.

Grant dollars rose by 54.2% to charities in the health subsector, from $468 million to $722 million. Among these surveyed DAF sponsors, the average grant amount for health charities increased by 18.7 percent. The health subsector can include disease research institutions, healthcare facilities and mental health and crisis service organizations.

Americans truly are giving people. We see that reflected here at home in Jackson County through giving to the Foundation and grants that we pay out to help make a difference in the lives of our neighbors. We appreciate our donors’ generosity and their trust in our work.

Dan Davis is president and chief executive officer of the Community Foundation of Jackson County, 107 Community Drive, Seymour, IN 47274. For information about donating to the foundation, call 812-523-4483 or send an email to [email protected].