Looking Back on 2020

A year of history-defining moments, challenges and — thanks to Impact Makers like you — silver linings.

Do you remember how you felt last January? In so many ways, it feels like a lifetime ago. We were heading into a new year and a new decade filled with goals, aspirations and a few resolutions. By February and March, we began setting aside our best laid plans as the country and world entered the pandemic, and resulting economic devastation, food insecurity, and job uncertainty. The challenges were overwhelming and abrupt. At the very least, we’ve all experienced the psychological effects of this year. 

Despite all this, there have been incredible stories of innovative thinking and hope in helping those most in need. New and extraordinary challenges required the best problem-solving and agile mindsets. In the early days of the pandemic, adaptability and flexibility became critical coping skills. Since its onset, we’ve witnessed amazing acts of kindness, giving, and resolve, and along the way noticed a few silver linings and learnings from 2020.

Responding to a Pandemic
In March, we shared COVID-19 response resources on our website and hosted webinars to help our clients quickly set up relief programs, providing recommendations on the most effective responses to the immediate crisis. For some time, we’ve been talking about the importance of Agile Social Impact — the need to respond immediately to emerging events, innovate faster with new programs and initiatives, and optimize continuously to increase impact. We never imagined the breadth or importance of scaling and systematizing giving programs to respond faster when and where the need is greatest. 

Organizations around the globe adjusted to a new giving landscape. We saw our clients overcome obstacles by offering greater flexibility to existing grantees, including allowing funds to be redirected to other projects or operating costs, extending grant periods, providing need-based funding, streamlining application requirements, and helping get critical money to those in the most need, quickly. During this time, the global giving community witnessed an unparalleled effort among corporations to assist and accommodate grantees. Giving increased, and many organizations pledged to give more in the latter half of 2020. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, “charitable giving in the first half of 2020 increased by almost 7.5 percent over the first half of 2019.”

In April, we launched the CoffeeTalk series - unscripted, extemporaneous conversations with CyberGrants hosts and our community of Impact Makers, discussing a range of topics from giving, to spinning up virtual-volunteering programs, to employee engagement efforts. These virtual sessions were designed to bring our philanthropic community together for idea sharing during this unprecedented time to offer strategic advice on challenges and solutions in their own corporate social responsibility programs. Over the following months, Johnson and Johnson and US Bank discussed ways they quickly transitioned to virtual volunteer programs, Comcast  shared strategies for community engagement,  AbbVie discussed building inclusive communities, and Levi’s talked about the importance of employee resource groups. 

GivingTuesdayNOW
In May, as an emergency response to the widespread need caused by COVID-19, GivingTuesday set up its first mid-year campaign called GivingTuesdayNow. We had the opportunity to hear from Woodrow Rosenbaum of GivingTuesday as a part of our Coffee Talk series, in which he shared some helpful advice with our audience on how to get involved in GivingTuesdayNOW. Netscout joined and discussed how to rapidly deploy a global GivingTuesday program, with insights into the spontaneous innovations around civic engagement and generosity that have emerged since COVID-19.  Generous and kind souls from over 145 countries gave an estimated $503 million during GivingTuesdayNow.

Black Lives Matter Movement
In June, in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a long overdue conversation started a movement for equal rights and justice that saw many companies strengthen their existing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs. With a spotlight on the social inequity in the US, a demand for change, and the eradication of social injustice, philanthropic funds were directed to targeted organizations to help to create long term impact. Not only did we witness many corporations setting up rapid response funds, but many also reviewed their DEI strategies to engender a collective conversation to heal and mobilize the nation. According to a BBC article, billions were raised by large corporations and other donors, and in December, a coalition of 37 executives from major corporations joined OneTen.org, committing to “upskill, hire, and advance one million Black Americans over the next 10 years into family-sustaining jobs with opportunities for advancement.”

Voter Rights
Through the Fall, Impact Makers like Levi Strauss Foundation and Patagonia launched public information campaigns to promote voter education, voter rights, and encourage voter participation. By forming the business-led, nonpartisan coalition Time To Vote, they ensured many employees the ability to participate in elections by offering paid time off to vote, access early voting, and vote by mail. 

GivingTuesday 2020
December brought the second GivingTuesday of the year. Despite fears of donor fatigue, giving increased 25% over 2019 with nearly 39 million people donating. At CyberGrants, we saw a 24% increase in client giving over 2019 with employee donations up 33%! We processed $9 million in employee giving in just one day, we saw an increase of 16% in company matches, employee donations went up 33% compared to last year, and the number of unique donors experienced double-digit growth. We are continuously humbled by the generosity of our philanthropic community, continuing to make incredible happen on GivingTuesday and every day.

Goodbye 2020, Hello 2021
2020 may be humanity’s wake-up call, moving us to think differently, act responsibly, live respectfully, and be more present. Between the global effects of COVID-19, tragic events that propelled social justice movements, and a tumultuous election year in the US, many of us would like to put 2020 behind us. Despite this difficult year, many of us learned how to be more mindful and active global citizens. We became even more active participants in making this world a better place. Witnessing so much kindness, humanity, strength, selflessness, and caring sets the stage for us all to make even more incredible happen in 2021! 

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