Should I be funding rapid response or system change right now?

This is a question I keep getting asked right now.

I’m 100% confident Jeff Goldblum was talking about the coronavirus in The Fly 🤣

Folks are getting inundated with asks from folks for funding basic needs for individuals, covering bills and food for families who have lost jobs. I am on an urgent funding ask listserv, and just yesterday I got five different asks for funding. And that doesn’t count things that come across my radar on social media or my local mutual aid community. Are you feeling overwhelmed? I sure was.

As someone who started the year with a solid plan of where I’d be giving, things went out the window by the middle of March. I was sending Venmo and Paypal gifts left and right. I redistributed my stimulus check to individuals and a few newly-created crisis funds.

But then I had to take a step back and pause. How did that flurry of activity fit into the plan I made in January? Did that plan completely go out the window?

So things have changed. The world has changed.

Photo Art from Creative Commons: Pam Link

When trying to decide between these two very different types of giving, I am reminded of the parable of the river. I’m not sure the author, but I first learned of it from the teachings of Saul Alinsky:

A group of campers were setting up on a riverbank. One camper looked out onto the river was shocked to see a baby was floating downstream. She ran into the water to save the tiny child. Then she saw that there were more babies who were also coming down the river. Others raced in to help save the babies from drowning in the rapid current.

After quietly observing what was happening, one of the campers started walking away from the group in the water. The woman in the river asked, “Where are you going? We need your help here!”

She responded, “I’m going upstream to stop whoever is throwing these babies in the river!”

Now, which job is more important? Which job are you more called to do?

Both are critical for saving the babies. The world needs both types of people. And when it comes to giving, we need people to be funding both types of work.

And as we see the numbers of people impacted by both the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 increase, we need increased funding for both the immediate needs and the system change work.

How much had you originally planned for rapid response giving?

For my clients, I always recommend having a rapid response bucket in your giving plan. In past years, this could include relief to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, the devastating fires in California, or supporting a friend’s charity 5k race. For some folks who enjoy funding immediate needs or making direct payments to individuals, it could be as high as ⅓ of their total giving. For me, it’s usually closer to 10%.

You decide what works for you.

Even if you set a plan in place earlier in the year, does this number still make sense? What if you doubled the amount going to rapid response, and kept all your other giving the same?

Or, can you give more to rapid response AND to system change work? Perhaps you can make your gifts earlier in the year than you originally planned, so organizations can put the money to work right away.

Or, as one of my clients is doing, DOUBLE ALL YOUR GIVING. Now is the time.

Of course, you have to think about your own financial situation. Has your income stopped or been cut down dramatically? And are you giving money out of that, or from investments? What sort of “rainy day fund” do you have set aside, or perhaps a chunk of money growing in perpetuity family foundation or donor advised fund?

The world is pretty rainy right now. Now is the time for folks to give more, as I talked about last week.

Let’s do it.

Today’s the day to tap into that rainy day fund. For real real.

Got questions about how or where to move funds? Get your free Giving Plan Template here, and start making a plan! Or reach out on instagram: @movemoney_shiftpower

Money and philanthropy coach. Organizer. Rabble rouser. Learn more here: