Irina V. Mersiyanova, Centre for Studies of Civil Society and Nonprofit Sector
Irina V. Mersiyanova

Irina V. Mersiyanova
Associate Professor and Director
Centre for Studies of Civil Society and Nonprofit Sector, Head of the Chair Economics and Management of NPOs, National Research University Higher School of Economics

Global Generosity During the COVID-19 Crisis: Recommendations for Philanthropic Organizations and Governments in Times of Crisis from 11 Countries

Irina V. Mersiyanova, et. al.

IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, September 2023

Hampton, D., Wiepking, P., Chapman, C., McHugh, L. H., Kim, S. J., Neumayr, M., Vamstad, J. Arnesen, D., Carrigan, C., Feit, G., Grönlund, H., Hrafnsdottir, S., Ivanova, N., Katz, H., Kristmundsson, Ó. H., Litofcenko, J., Mersianova, I., Pessi, A. B., Scaife, W., Sivesind, K. H., and Yang, Y. (2023). Global generosity during the COVID-19 crisis. Recommendations for philanthropic organizations and governments in times of crisis from 11 countries. Indianapolis, IN: IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

“This study contributes to an increased understanding of philanthropy, especially in times of crisis, by studying the conditions under which such behaviors may be threatened or promoted across different countries and cultures.”  –Global Generosity in Times of Crisis Project – Executive Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic presented a unique opportunity to undertake a cross-national study of how people living in different countries manifested generosity behaviors during the crisis. Cross-national data allow us to consider how generosity presented in countries with various welfare and health systems, as well as varying public and private responses to manage the effects of the pandemic. The present study also provides valuable insights about which actions philanthropic organizations and governments can take to promote a strong, viable social sector and to support societal wellbeing during times of crisis.

To this end, philanthropy researchers across 11 countries studied the generosity responses emerging in their own country during the early COVID-19 crisis in 2020. The 11 countries included in this project are Australia, Austria, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Israel, Norway, Sweden, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America. In 11 individual country reports, the researchers compared generosity behavior data for their country with data from the other participating countries.2 Second, they expounded what both philanthropic organizations and governments could learn from the findings, with the goal of facilitating people’s future generosity responses more effectively, especially during crises.

A survey of over 44,000 people across 11 countries showed a predominance of monetary donations to philanthropic organizations during crises, with notable variations in the beneficiaries of donations among different nations. Despite overall stability in giving compared to pre-pandemic times, the consistency was due to non-donors pre-pandemic continuing not to donate, while those who donated before were likely to either increase or decrease their donations during crises. Factors such as pandemic uncertainty or personal financial issues influenced some donors to decrease their donations, while paradoxically, others increased their generosity amid similar challenges. The authors advise philanthropic organizations to prioritize key actions to optimally support community needs during crises. More detailed information and specific recommendations can be accessed by reading the full text.