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Welcome to the Giving Thought Podcast, a bi-weekly exploration of trends in global philanthropy and civil society from the Charities Aid Foundation’s in-house think-tank, Giving Thought.

In each episode your host Rhodri Davies (formerly with co-host Adam Pickering) explores a big issue, theme or trend and analyses what it means for philanthropy and civil society around the world.

Be sure to check the show notes for each podcast and find blogs, reports and videos from Giving Thought and do get in touch if you have questions or suggestions at

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May 6, 2020

In episode 75 we take a look at the key issues facing civil society and philanthropy during the covid-19 pandemic crisis and beyond. We explore the benefits of historical insight, highlight some of the main challenges civil society organisations face right now, and consider the most important questions to ask as we look ahead to the future. Including:


The history of philanthropy and civil society in times of crisis

  • Centralization- what can we learn from C18th Hamburg and WWI in the UK about how crises lead to a desire to rationalise philanthropy?
  • How do views on the causes of crises affect the philanthropic response? Religious views on plagues and the role of charity, and how the understanding of epidemic illness affects collectivism and mutualism.
  • Poverty, Power & Inequality: The unequal effects of crises and the dangers- does philanthropy entrench inequality, or can it help to overcome it?


Key current trends

  • Reduced income but increased demand. Many orgs in survival mode.
  • Universal nature of crisis makes fundraising ask more complex (i.e. not “them”, but “us”)
  • Enforced pivot to digital - how do you adapt to new tools and avoid pitfalls?
  • Funder behaviour: unrestricted grants, core-cost funding, reduced reporting, trust-based grantmaking
  • Collaboration, cooperation & coordination
  • New digitally-enabled networks emerging alongside traditional charities


What might the future hold?

  • Will we see a shift in public expectations of state vs philanthropic provision?
  • Will there be a rebalancing of the mutual vs charitable tradition?
  • Philanthro-localism or philanthro-globalism?
  • Will the reputation of philanthropy improve or deteriorate?
  • Are decentralised and networked organisational models an opportunity or a threat for civil society?
  • Does the response to the pandemic highlight an unmet desire for participation?
  • Will the current period of enforced digitisation lead to more CSOs engaging with the opportunities and challenges of technology?
  • Is the short-term imperative to meet critical need going to lead to a longer-term desire to rationalise philanthropy?
  • Will we see more transparency and sharing of data?
  • Are we seeing the end of organisational ego in philanthropy?
  • Will there be longer-term changes in attitudes to core costs, unrestricted grants and reporting requirements?
  • Will we see a shift in perception/norms with regard to endowed assets?
  • Will there be more recognition of the need for foresight among funders and civil society?
  • Will the crisis create new problems for civil society to address?



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