What You Can Do: Positive Actions in a Time of Crisis

August 31, 2020

Imagine if everyone in a position to do so stepped up to the plate to help the nonprofits that are doing critical work at a time of previously unimaginable need. Our communities’ outlooks and prospects could look quite different.

While giving is declining overall in an economic downturn, the philanthropic community is looking at powerful ways to unlock the power of the nonprofit sector in ways that we have never seen before – both in championing changes to reflect a more racially and economically equitable society and by demanding that the resources that are available flow to the nonprofits that are doing the work to reduce suffering due to the pandemic and to advance racial and economic justice. 

If you are looking for a positive outlet in a very difficult time for our country and world, consider the following suggestions: 


Your giving matters right now more than ever. Nonprofits are and will be increasingly critical to helping a surging number of people in need due to the pandemic, and many organizations are in financial jeopardy themselves due to COVID-19. Racial justice organizations need support to build momentum while we are in a period of real opportunities to become a more just society. Voter engagement and safe and secure elections are critical issues in this high-stakes election year. Together we need to both help those who are suffering now and act to make positive changes that address the root causes of inequity and injustice – not just the symptoms. Here are a few things to know: 

Do you have a Donor Advised Fund? There is over $120 billion sitting in Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) and community foundations in this country. In “normal” years, only a tiny percentage of this trickles out to nonprofits. In this very abnormal year, it’s time to turn that trickle into a wave of support that will bring relief to millions and steer our society toward a more equitable future. This money is already committed to philanthropy – the time to activate it is now! #HalfMyDAF is a challenge that offers matching gifts to organizations that are nominated by those who take their pledge to grant out half of their DAF (by September 2020). FareStart has not yet been nominated – might you be the donor to do it? Please see their informative website: halfmydaf.com.

Tax incentive for direct cash gifts: There is a tax benefit right now to up your giving. In addition to a $300 universal deduction for charitable giving, the CARES Act also suspended the 60 percent adjusted gross income limitation for individuals’ charitable contributions for the year 2020. In a typical year, individuals can only take a charitable deduction of up to 60 percent of their adjusted gross income, no matter how much they give. For 2020, there is no limit, making cash contributions fully deductible. In addition, donations of the required minimum distribution (RMD) from retirement plans, such as pensions and 457 plans, are still a great way to give directly to a qualifying charity like FareStart and give you income tax savings. 

Foundations are being challenged to step up their giving as well. A recent foundation leader created the “Crisis Charitable Commitment,” asking foundations to pledge a much larger portion of their funds in the next three years, a positive step toward putting a portion of this country’s wealth to work in this crisis. 


Are your dollars doing good in our community? You can buy gift cards at small businesses, and buy services, coffee, or other goods from minority-owned businesses. Check out intentionalist.com for a great tool to discover them. Got extra time? Volunteerism is alive, both in-person and online. Many organizations have had to cut staff and are under-resourced in trying to do their work. Many social justice organizations are volunteer-led and staffed. United Way of King County keeps a volunteer opportunity listing on their website: uwkc.org/volunteer. Food insecurity is rising sharply, and food banks need our support. Consider collecting non-perishables from your friends and neighbors and delivering them to a food bank in need. A list of food banks is available at seattlefoodcommittee.org/food-bank-map. And FareStart has opportunities too – keep an eye on our volunteer page

Thank you for your positive contributions to the community!