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Almost all of us likely know someone who has been impacted by the coronavirus. We’re also acutely aware of the “closed” signs hung across businesses in our communities.
But perhaps you’re also in the fortunate position of being able to give back right now and are looking for ways to show support. If that’s the case, you may have some questions on how you can make the biggest impact.
For that, we spoke with Shira Oberlander, head of Community TeamWorks, Goldman Sachs’ employee volunteering initiative, on how you can help right now. Here’s what she had to say.
I’m interested in giving back but want to be smart with my money. How should I think about allocating my donation(s)?
Oberlander: At Goldman Sachs, we focused our Goldman Sachs Gives Covid-19 Relief Fund around five priority areas: 1) assisting health providers on the frontlines, 2) providing assistance to the most vulnerable populations, 3) providing economic relief for reduced and lost work, 4) supporting children and families in the wake of school closures, and 5) supporting medical research. That’s where we saw critical need to leverage philanthropic dollars.
In my role as head of Community TeamWorks, I’ve also had the privilege to connect with hundreds of the firm’s nonprofit partners and hear what they are facing through this crisis. Across the board, I have been blown away by their resilience and their commitment to continuing to serve our communities despite unprecedented challenges.
While many organizations are seeking funds for direct Covid-19 relief efforts, I’ve heard firsthand from our nonprofit partners how much the sector overall is struggling with fundraising. Many organizations raise money through annual galas, runs/walks and other live events – most of which are impossible in a time of physical distancing. So it is an important time to give.
Should I give at the national or local level? Which organizations have the most need right now?
Oberlander: Consider diversifying your giving. At Goldman Sachs, we work with both local nonprofits in communities hard-hit by the crisis, as well as national and international organizations that have a wider lens and give at scale.
If you don’t feel like you’re in a position to choose, The Center for High Impact Philanthropy at UPenn has a helpful giving guide on addressing urgent needs, which can help with your decision-making process.
How can I make sure my donation directly supports coronavirus relief efforts?
Oberlander: When you donate online, you usually can specify which campaign or effort you want your donation to go to. That said, it is a great time to think about “unrestricted giving.” Particularly at this time of immense need across the nonprofit community, it can be beneficial for the organization to determine where your donation can be best used.
Maybe you think your donation should be going to coronavirus relief efforts, but the organization actually needs to hire staff to build those programs. Or they need laptops for that staff. Or they need to pay their rent or utility bills. Unrestricted giving allows nonprofits to put money where they need it most.
Can I volunteer my time or donate other resources? With volunteering, how do I do that safely?
Oberlander: Volunteer “virtually”! We just launched a virtual Community TeamWorks campaign at Goldman Sachs. Globally, thousands of our people are providing their time and talents to support people disproportionately affected by Covid-19. They are offering emergency coaching to small business owners, tutoring homebound students, supporting healthcare workers on the frontlines, and meaningfully connecting with isolated seniors.
We have uncovered lots of opportunities to serve your community right now from your home. Many nonprofits have pivoted their programming to be delivered remotely, and are now seeking volunteers to support. For example, you can remotely tutor students with UPchieve or mentor budding entrepreneurs with Sky’s the Limit. You can also reach out to your local hospital and see if they are willing to receive thank you cards or letters of appreciation for their staff.
Or, contact a local nursing home and see if they have residents who are feeling isolated and want a friendly check-in call. You can sew cloth masks, if you have a sewing machine and are handy. Though most hospitals don’t accept hand-sewn masks, grocery workers, people delivering food or prescriptions, and elderly neighbors could use an extra layer of protection right now.
How can I support my local restaurants, bars, retailers and other businesses?
Oberlander: I spoke with our Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses team who have been canvassing businesses across the country, and they had some great suggestions:
One idea is buying directly from small or local businesses rather than going through a third party. Gift cards are also great because they put cash in business owners’ hands right now. If you aren’t in a position to buy, you can review, like and share on social media.
They also suggested you could continue to pay for services, like your fitness studio or community center membership. If you have a direct relationship with a business owner, you can share with them the U.S. Small Business Resource Center that Goldman Sachs compiled to help small businesses navigate accessing capital and support.
And, to the extent feasible, you can consider buying things that you know you’re going to need in the future. For instance, I have a toddler and I’m stocking up on next-sized clothing because I know he’ll need it eventually.
To support the restaurant industry, consider backing one of a growing number of food-relief nonprofits that are partnering with restaurants to provide meals for healthcare workers and vulnerable community members.
What is Goldman Sachs doing to support communities and people impacted by Covid-19?
Oberlander: The firm has committed more than $550 million towards relief efforts: $500 million in capital for emergency loans to small businesses, $25 million in grants to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and other mission-driven lenders, and $25 million for the Covid-19 Relief Fund, a philanthropic commitment through Goldman Sachs Gives to support the hardest-hit communities.
We also launched a special 3:1 match for employee donations $25 and under [beyond our regular employer match program], so that even smaller demonstrations of generosity would have significant impact.
As I mentioned, we have an ongoing dialogue with hundreds of community partners, from nonprofit leaders to small business owners to community colleges, to assess how we can best continue to support them. And we are mobilizing our people through nearly 100 virtual volunteering projects supporting Covid-19 relief efforts globally.
Is there anything else I should consider?
Oberlander: Research shows giving actually makes the giver feel better. While so many of us are feeling stress and anxiety right now, giving back can be a win for all – lifting your own spirits while making a positive impact on your community.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized professional advice. Articles on this site were commissioned and approved by Marcus by Goldman Sachs®, but may not reflect the institutional opinions of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Goldman Sachs Bank USA or any of their affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions.