America’s Food Fund ran the most successful fundraising campaign of 2020. It’s GoFundMe page raised over $44 million to feed America’s most vulnerable during the worst of Covid-19. However, the U.S. was only the second most generous country in the world this year.
Measured by donations per capita, the most generous country in 2020 was Ireland, according to figures released by GoFundMe, a crowd funding platform.
In fact, one of their top five fundraisers of 2020 saw Irish donors giving to U.S. citizens in need. The Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund went viral in Ireland, where donors were eager to repay a donation by Native Americans to Irish suffering from the Great Famine or Hunger in 1872.
Making up the top five most generous countries in the world in 2020 were, in order, the U.K., Canada, and Australia. The rest of the top 10 were filled by European countries.
The most generous cities were often outliers though. In the U.S. it was not New York but Silver Spring, a suburb of Washington DC, that gave the most. In the U.K. it was Londonderry (in Northern Island), not London. Bundaberg was Australia’s most generous.
But during a year upended by a pandemic, not all donations were related to Covid-19. Justice and equality charities saw a flood of support this year. The most successful, by far, was the Official George Floyd Memorial Fund, which raised $14.7 million from 500,000 donors, “the most donations ever received by an individual fundraiser,” says GoFundMe.
Some campaigns bagged high-profile donors, like Russell Crowe who made an unexpected $5,000 donation to a Beirut restaurant almost destroyed by August’s explosion.
For a Sotheby’s online auction raising funds for the devastated city, Emma Stone, Geri Halliwell, Mick Jagger and others have parted with an assortment of memorabilia. To Beirut With Love is expected to raise between £347,600 ($459,748) and £501,200 ($662,905) by the time the auction closes next week (15 December).
In another campaign helping the blasted city, a former TV chef is raising money to build ovens in the Beirut’s poorest neighborhoods whose residents lack food or cooking facilities.
A Record Breaking Year For Philanthropy
This year’s new records include the largest ever fundraising event, albeit an online one. In April, One World: Together At Home, raised $127 million for Covid-19 causes thanks to a star-studded line-up that included Sir Elton John and the Rolling Stones.
But perhaps the most famous fundraising initiative of 2020 was Captain Sir Tom Moore walking 100 lengths of his garden to raise £500,000 ($666,040) for the U.K.’s NHS Charities Together.
He raised over £32 million ($44 million) and was recognised for his efforts with a Knighthood from the Queen.
It may have been an extraordinary year for fundraising but charities say they are struggling now more than ever.
On Tuesday (8 December), Cancer Research, the world’s largest cancer research charity, announced it was cutting its budget by £45 million ($60 million), which means 328 fewer researchers working on cancer projects. Covid-19 has slowed down the charity’s efforts to beat cancer, says its chief executive, Michelle Mitchell.
“Your big charities that rely on big fundraising events, your British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research, those big ones are used to having events,” says Jo Barnett, executive director of Virgin Money Giving, the U.K.’s largest non-profit fundraising platform.
Only this year, with canceled marathons, concerts, and other events, they are down to about 20% to 25% of their normal donation levels, says Barnett. It’s not that donors are giving less, but they have completely changed the causes they support.
“As money rushes into frontline services like food banks, hospitals and hospices, non-Covid causes are being forgotten,” says Clare Wilkins, the effective philanthropy principal at NPC (New Philanthropy Capital), a think tank. She says Covid-19 has been “a mammoth disrupter in philanthropy.”
Other non-Covid causes have suffered. Animal charities are down 20% according to figures from JustGiving, an online fundraising platform. “This year has been like no other for the fundraising sector,” says Pascale Harvie, it’s general manager.
None of this bodes well for Christmas, the busiest time of year for charity fundraising. In normal years Christmas is a time of giving. But this year is not normal.
Some of the biggest Christmas fundraising events have been canceled. The famous Great Ormond Street Hospital carol service has gone online, Oxford Street turned on its annual charity Christmas lights to an empty audience, and, in many parts of the world, carol singers are banned from going door-to-door.
However, in the absence of large-scale organized events, people have taken fundraising into their own hands, says Barnett: “We’ve seen a lot of really creative fundraising.
“I’ve been running Virgin Money Giving for over 10 years now and we’ve never had a pattern like this before. It has always been quite predictable and this year has just turned everything on its head.”