Donors share stories of their COVID-19 response

Jun 04, 2020

Tom and Kathy Cole wanted to do something to help.


The local charity they volunteer with, Whosoever Gospel Mission, had been forced by the COVID-19 crisis to close its thrift store, a key source of revenue.


Tom and Kathy turned to their Vanguard Charitable donor-advised fund (DAF). They recommended an unrestricted $10,000 grant to the Philadelphia-based charity, which focuses on providing food, shelter, education, and other services to disadvantaged men experiencing homelessness.


“Because we had already budgeted and contributed to our Vanguard Charitable DAF in a previous year,” Tom said, “we were able to act quickly and support this organization we really admire.”

Donors share stories of their COVID-19 response
Donors share stories of their COVID-19 response
Published Date

Anonymous survey: Donors respond to COVID-191


“Of all the benefits of having a Vanguard Charitable DAF, it never occurred to us that we might be uniquely able to respond to the needs of our community in an emergency. To be able to lump several years’ worth of donations to charities at this time of greatest need is a privilege.”


“We like to think of an organization, each week, that would benefit from our help. Hopefully we can all keep giving to those who need it most. 


“My personal motivation is that giving is potentially the most impactful thing I can do to help at this time.”

Tom and Kathy are just one example of the many Vanguard Charitable donors who have answered the call as the pandemic sweeps the globe.


On the other side of the country in California’s Bay Area, Eugene Jhong quickly searched for organizations that could make an immediate and pivotal impact. He decided to grant to, a nonprofit that facilitates the rapid and efficient delivery of much-needed aid supplies across the world, and Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, a local food bank providing healthy meals to those in need. His grants to these two charities totaled $200,000.


“Both organizations have already made a huge difference in tackling some of the most pressing challenges,” Eugene said.

A new sense of purpose

For many donors, the COVID-19 crisis has added new clarity to their charitable giving.


“My wife Carolyn and I have always focused on being very efficient with donations, but with today’s urgent need we’ve relaxed our process,” said donor Andrew Chatham. “To help organizations working to mitigate the economic consequences, we immediately gave to the local food pantry, along with Tipping Point Community and GiveDirectly, both of which focus on supporting those in poverty.”


But Andrew and Carolyn also wanted to support medical efforts. They were thrilled to learn about Assist International’s Step Up in Crisis program and its mission to deliver medical supplies and equipment to hard-hit areas in the U.S. They recommended a grant to help the organization acquire personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line hospital workers—without driving up prices.


Corporate donors have also leapt in to help. NRG Energy has already surpassed its goal to grant $2 million through its DAF to front-line relief efforts. The Princeton, N.J.-based company has recommended grants to 55 unique organizations, with a focus on supporting first responders, educators, and small businesses. They’ve also distributed $450,000 to a fund at the Emergency Assistance Foundation to help support any of their own employees affected by the crisis. 


“Our front-line efforts are aimed at providing support at the local level in the places we work, so that our grants can have the greatest community impact,” the organization reported.

Nonprofits express gratitude for donors' rapid response 

Charities truly appreciate the grants they receive. Post-Prison Education Program, a Washington state-based charity, reached out to express their gratitude upon receiving a $500 grant from a Vanguard Charitable donor. The organization used the funds to pay for rent at a sober transition house, or “halfway home,” for a woman struggling with mental illness who was recently released from prison.


Direct Relief, a nonprofit that delivers essential medical items to health care workers across the world, received a $500,000 grant from one of our donors. President and CEO Thomas Tighe responded: “Direct Relief is so deeply grateful for this extraordinary act of personal generosity. It’s a rare-in-one’s-life experience to get a note like this [containing details of the grant]. It definitely caught me short, but in a good way."

“We appreciate the speed with which Vanguard Charitable has approved and issued our pandemic response grant requests to local organizations dealing with food and shelter for those most at risk.”

With charitable funds primed and ready for quick granting, Vanguard Charitable donors are uniquely positioned to offer crucial support during an unexpected crisis. In fact, on July 15, our donors reached the $80 million mark in COVID-19 relief grants. Those numbers continue to grow, with more help waiting in the wings: In a recent survey of our donors, 63% of respondents said they will change their giving patterns to give more in response to the crisis.

Donors find other ways to give back

Numerous Vanguard Charitable donors have reported complementing their financial giving with volunteer efforts as well—delivering meals, helping neighbors, or gathering friends to sew large quantities of protective masks. One family redirected funds from a canceled vacation to charitable efforts. Others have reported leveraging social media to encourage giving among their followers. Then there’s the substantial number of donors who are doctors, nurses, or other medical personnel working on the front lines of the pandemic.

“This crisis is a great time to help others. Everyone has something to contribute. I am using my accounting skills to help small businesses apply for Small Business Administration loans.”

As the crisis lengthens, the need will continue to grow. Judging by the response so far, our donors are committed to using their DAF accounts, along with other tools at their disposal, to make a real difference.



Updated July 15. Do you have a story to share? Submit your giving story here

1Unattributed quotations in this article were taken from an anonymous survey given to Vanguard Charitable donors in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Quotations may have been edited slightly for length or clarity.


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