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Serving those in need and trying to survive during the pandemic

The economic impact of the coronavirus has been felt far and wide across the country. But how has the pandemic impacted charitable giving and philanthropic donations throughout this year? And what are the challenges ahead for not-for-profits? Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, joins Amna Nawaz to discuss.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    This time of year is a critical one for charities and nonprofits that rely on a surge of holiday giving to make ends meet.

    But this year, we have seen the need for their services dramatically grow, especially at food banks, where lines are stretching longer than before.

    For more on the state of giving in America, I'm joined by Stacy Palmer. She's the editor of "The Chronicle of Philanthropy."

    Stacy Palmer, welcome back to the "NewsHour."

    I think it's fair to say the pandemic has had devastating economic impact on the country, and philanthropies are no exception.

    In fact, one analysis looked at over 300,000 U.S.-based nonprofits, and it found that, in the most dire scenario, nearly 120,000 of them could close.

    How badly has the pandemic hurt philanthropy?

  • Stacy Palmer:

    Philanthropy itself is fairly strong. People are giving generously. But that's not enough to help nonprofits.

    And so you're right. Many nonprofits are worried about closing. They have laid off their employees. They can't keep up with the demand for services. So it's a really rough time in the nonprofit world, no matter how generous Americans have been.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And is there a difference between how larger groups vs. smaller groups have fared during this time?

  • Stacy Palmer:

    Groups of all sizes are struggling, but it's those small and midsized groups that we count on in many communities. They barely have any reserves. Some of them have one to two weeks of reserves.

    So, when that financial cushion runs out, their only choice is to cut back services, lay off workers or that kind of thing. So it's a very scary situation for many nonprofits.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    We have also seen during the pandemic inequality in America also grow dramatically. And millions of Americans are struggling with lost wages and jobs.

    But the country's richest, over 600 billionaires, added almost a trillion dollars in total net worth during the pandemic. Has that fueled any additional giving from the richest Americans?

  • Stacy Palmer:

    We have seen some amazing gifts from some of the very wealthiest people.

    MacKenzie Scott, former wife of Jeff Bezos, has given $6 billion this year. So, it's an amazing thing. Jack Dorsey of Twitter has given very generously. So, we're seeing those amazing gifts. But, even still, it's not enough to make up for the losses that nonprofits have.

    And nonprofits depend on government, just like a lot of us do. So, it's not just philanthropy, but the reason they're suffering is because they get their money in so many different ways. And they're not available anymore.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Stacy, the need is so great right now, but that need will extend far beyond the holidays, when people are more likely to give.

    For folks out there who are struggling, trying to prioritize where and how to give, what would your advice be?

  • Stacy Palmer:

    Almost every nonprofit needs money now. So, it's — you should make the choice of what you care about most in your community.

    Those of us who are getting stimulus checks, maybe don't need them, have a little bit of extra money, it's a great thing for us to try to give to the people in our communities who are suffering the most.

    But think about other causes, mental health groups, arts groups, other kinds of groups that we don't think about with those food bank lines. They also need your help. So, they will appreciate anything that you could give.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And we know that need will be there for many weeks and months to come.

    That is Stacy Palmer from "The Chronicle of Philanthropy."

    Thank you for joining us.

  • Stacy Palmer:

    Thank you so much.

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