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Philanthropies are used to planning for the future as a vital part of their success, so the uncertain times brought on by COVID-19 are especially challenging. The Monitor Institute of Deloitte talked with upwards of 75 leaders in the social sector to see how they are responding to the COVID-19 crisis. While many have already incorporated their emergency response measures, they don’t know what steps to take next. There seem to be two extreme sides.


Some philanthropists act like it’s 1918 all over again, viewing COVID-19 much like they did the Spanish Flu that lasted two years and took more lives than all the wars in the 20th century combined. It was merely an event to many onlookers, where some recovered and some died, but life went on. The pandemic was all but forgotten.


Other philanthropists see COVID-19 as similar to the Great Depression, brutally injuring the global economy to the point of total collapse. They see a public health crisis that will permanently change the way society functions. And when paired with racial tensions, this concerned group of philanthropists believes that COVID-19 is the beginning of an entirely new era.


Of course, neither of these outcomes are guaranteed. COVID-19 could have an entirely different impact on the world. The Monitor Institute of Deloitte draws on experience from the past to counsel today’s philanthropists against planning for one expected outcome. Because the likelihood of COVID-19 is that no one knows exactly how it will pan out, the Monitor Institute of Deloitte recommends scenario planning that recognizes that multiple different scenarios are more likely than one individual scenario taking place.


The Monitor Institute of Deloitte has a recommended course of action to help philanthropists survive.


  • Prudent Assumptions
    What is the baseline reality that should be used for planning?
  • Critical Uncertainties
    There’s no telling how COVID-19 will end, except that it will impact the future.
  • Scenarios for the Social Sector
    Planning for four different scenarios based on whether the country comes together or completely falls apart.
  • What to do Next
    Advice on how to use those scenarios to build the necessary resilience to endure what is to come.
  • Takeaways for the Sector
    Recognizing what the crisis might mean for the future for the entire social sector.


With this 5-step plan, The Monitor Institute of Deloitte hopes to help philanthropists prepare for and get through COVID-19.