What will emerge from the war on COVID-19?

What Matters

What can emerge from the war on COVID-19? Look to civil society for some clues.

Prominent figures like Henry Kissinger predict a fundamental transformation of social relations, so complete that one must look to World War II to find a relevant comparison. We still have many people with us who participated in World War II. Those who fought in the war are what we call the “Greatest Generation” because of their reputation for being willing to sacrifice and serve the greater good. How will the generation forged in the COVID-19 crisis craft the reality that emerges from it?

Dr. Rebecca Spang of Indiana University argues that the seeds of the new post-COVID-19 order will emerge from the “revolutionary” ferment that is all around us, despite the confusion and ambiguity about how to replace or restore recent certainties.

Today we may be experiencing a global dislocation that may rival the depth of social discontinuity that occurred as a consequence of that calamitous war. The last world war led to the creation of a new social order with welfare states and a new international order among them. States assumed greater responsibility for their citizens, reflecting a new feeling of solidarity across social divisions that had united in sacrifice to battle a common enemy during the war.

Internationally, we saw the creation of the United Nations, facilitating a web of international cooperation, including through agencies like the World Health Organization that has helped coordinate, however imperfectly, the global response to our current pandemic. What will emerge from the current experience that is unfolding?

No one can predict the future, but as pundits argue about the right amount of government growth that will happen as a result of the war on COVID-19, they often overlook our civic sector. Historians, economists, and political scientists have studied the fact that governments grow through war.

The size of government may retreat when peace breaks out, but its size usually ends up larger than it was before the war. And reports of tension between government and commerce oversimplify the ways in which our private and public personas interact with each other. They, too, generally overlook the space apart, the civic space, where we engage each other through communities both long established and newly created that are not of either the government or the market. 

The civic space does not simply stand apart; its animating energy comes from human will unconstrained either by the authority of the government or the necessities of exchange in the market. It is where we preserve our voluntary spirit.

While companies may forego profit to keep workers employed, landlords may forgive rent, and retired public officials may volunteer on the front lines of the emergency, let’s remember that the logic of the market and the government do not usually plan for this response. Rather, in exceptional circumstances, such as in times of war, mass mobilization of entire societies for war efforts rely on surges of enthusiasm that arise voluntarily, not because they were commanded or incentivized. 

So, while I will watch what governments plan for the aftermath of the pandemic and what private sector innovations prepare for during our economic re-engagement and recovery, I will be most interested in what will emerge from what people feel is intrinsically important for them based on what they are learning from this crisis. Especially our youth: how will they want to shape their generation?

In the flurry of philanthropic responses to the pandemic, we are seeing a blossoming of social solidarity that we have seen emerge during and after prior disasters. Although uncounted in the way we count unemployment or cases of COVID-19, the many heartwarming “human interest” stories we hear certainly play a role in preserving our social fabric, reflecting the trust, good will and desire to help that seems too important not to count.

Only a small subset of the ways we express kindness and help each other are counted as essential social statistics. (Our school’s research department is working to add to this by tracking some of the financially prominent philanthropic responses to the crisis.) 

Research shows that we rush to give when we have disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and tsunamis. Communities with the least often come together to help each other with an intensity that was not present during other, more normal times. Research also has shown that groups with deeper reservoirs of social capital manage crises better and tend to recover better (although on a cautionary note this can also mean that communities can be less welcoming to outsiders in need).

Histories tell the stories of wars we survived in terms of anthropomorphized actions of states and their leaders. But the ideas and interests that ended up shaping the aftermath were often in existence and percolating even before the crisis, and they were likely taking place in spaces not dominated by the state or commercial interests before the crisis. So, our emerging generations that are bound to also be known for something great, are already crafting the future today in ways that will only become obvious with time.

Lilly Family School of Philanthropy alumnus Derrick Feldman, M.A.‘04, has been tracking how millennials and subsequent generations conceive and express their civic identities, and he has some early insights into how they are making sense of the pandemic.

Historian Jill Lepore and philosopher Michael Walzer argue that what is remembered and argued about during wars and similarly cataclysmic events ends up shaping what we pass on to future generations. However tragic, the brute facts of the suffering around us are fleeting; what we count and recount will have lasting consequences.

In the daily and weekly ferment of reflections on the happenings around us, we see the beginning of possible post-crisis narratives, prefaces to stories that will construct the world that will emerge. And it is inevitable that the youth who come to full awareness through this experience will own what it ultimately means.

Finally, in our times we bemoan our polarization. But an even more diverse array of distinct ideologies confronted the Greatest Generation—ranging from communism to fascism to liberal democracy and laissez-faire capitalism. Will our post COVID-19 world reveal more diverse social arrangements or even greater convergence about how to organize societies? 

Given the emerging generations’ aversion to inequality in general, it is not hard to imagine that after the experience of our common vulnerability to a pandemic, we will have a sharp change in attitudes about how we are connected and implicated in each other’s health. One can imagine responses that focus on the solidarity this creates among our species, or it could emphasize the need to prepare our own nations or localities to be less dependent on far-off supplies and to be less exposed to distant pathogens.  

We are fortunate that hookworm and yellow fever were conquered thanks to support from the Rockefeller Foundation in its early decades of existence. Now our philanthropic sector is working to serve people’s immediate needs as it prepares for an unfolding economic crisis. At the same time, it is playing a significant role in the health responses and in searching for vaccines and therapies. But beneath the flurry of the crisis response, attitudes and solutions that were percolating before the crisis are preparing their return in novel forms.

Movements in support of labor and civil rights returned after World War II to shape the struggle for a welfare state. Cross-border movements to promote peace and end imperial prerogatives engaged a United Nations built on great power compromise to facilitate the assertions of dignity by peoples around the world.

So, beneath the radar of official and important news, counting all the things that states and markets find to be of utmost value, in the fog of war against COVID-19 much of the future is brewing in the civic sector. New generations are crafting their civic identities and sowing the seeds for the next social order.

Best regards,

Dean Amir Pasic

Amir Pasic
Eugene R. Tempel Dean

Connecting donors to local communities

Claire Smillie

For Claire (Ralston) Smillie, B.A.’19, an internship during her junior year at Shepherd Community Center in its development office gave her a great deal of fundraising experience. She built a stewardship program that encouraged recurring donations, segmented donations into different giving categories, and then tailored subsequent stewardship activities afterward.

Another internship during her senior year spring semester at United Way of Central Indiana guided her learning about donor stewardship, fundraising strategy, and relationship building that continues to benefit Smillie’s career in fundraising and development.

Smillie’s hard work as an intern helped her earn a full-time position at United Way as its individual engagement associate.

In that role, Smillie currently works alongside the organization’s corporate engagement team to serve, steward, and engage with leadership donors.

“We learn about the causes they care about and connect them with our mission to address poverty in Central Indiana,” she explained. 

Smillie enjoys working with “amazing individuals passionate about helping Hoosiers in Central Indiana.”

“I’m also able to meet a variety of different individuals and connect with them about supporting our local community,” she said. “I enjoy being able to build relationships around philanthropy and make a difference.”

In the future, she hopes to continue to learn as much as possible. While continuing to work at United Way, she is currently pursuing her master’s degree in philanthropic studies at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy to continue developing and refining her skills.

“I am extremely grateful to be serving the Central Indiana community, and plan to continue to do so in the future as well,” Smillie said.

When asked about who she admires most in philanthropy, especially during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, Smillie points to the everyday philanthropist.

“(I admire) the healthcare workers volunteering their expertise, neighbors checking on neighbors, donors giving to relief funds, and each person choosing to follow social distancing guidelines for the overall health of our community,” she said.

“Putting others before yourself is the truest form of philanthropy and I admire each person who stepped up and showed up.”

Learn how you can make your passion your profession with a bachelor's degree

He became involved in nonprofit work as well though, co-founding and serving as the vice chair and then chair of Marian’s young alumni board, GOLD, as well as volunteering as the vice chair of the West Deanery Unified Catholic School Board, which serves the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ Cardinal Ritter High School and St. Michael-St. Gabriel Archangels Catholic Elementary School. 

When Hagan accepted a job at the IU School of Medicine, he knew that he wanted to continue his education. Meeting with Dr. Kathi Badertscher, director of graduate programs at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, cemented his decision to earn a master’s degree in philanthropic studies.

“Dr. Badertscher was so welcoming. She took the time to ask me about my interests, and how she could help me achieve my goals,” he said.

Hagan applied to the program, was accepted, and enrolled shortly thereafter. He began by taking one class a semester, then took two at a time during the middle of the program, and finished with three during his final semester. While based in Indianapolis, Hagan decided to complete the degree fully online.

“I worked full-time on campus, so I wanted an online program that gave me the flexibility to do the work when I was able to,” he said.

Hagan soon began implementing the lessons he learned from classes into his work with both of the nonprofit boards he served on, including during his required internship, which he served with the West Deanery board.

“For example, I shared a small book about standards for effective boards that we studied in class. During board meetings, we discussed the effective habits of boards specifically around finances and operations,” he said.

“Even though we’re a board of limited jurisdiction, we want to learn and grow, and continue to improve what we’re doing to help the schools successfully carry out their mission. So, I wanted to use different pieces of knowledge and information from class to help make the board better, stronger, and more effective."

After graduating in December 2018, Hagan has continued in his role at the IU School of Medicine, which is the largest medical school in the country. Hagan works within the central budget team that facilitates the budget process and performs fiscal analysis for departments and the school.

He’s found that finance and the proper use of funds tie his current work with his philanthropy degree. In addition, it’s given him a holistic view of the nonprofit sector and the role that it plays in society.

“This philanthropy degree has helped me understand why we have a nonprofit sector, why it’s given that name, how nonprofits function in our society, and more,” Hagan said. “I also learned about the practical side and day-to-day experiences of working in the sector. Combining a high view with the practical day-to-day applications of finance and fundraising, for example, has been the benefit to earning this degree.”

Hagan encourages anyone interested in philanthropy and the nonprofit sector to meet with faculty and staff to see how a degree aligns with their goals:

“You’ll be pleasantly surprised by what philanthropy is and how you can use it, regardless of where you work and what career path you’re on.”

Discover the various ways you can earn a master’s degree

Research, theory inform cross-sector, cross-continent practice

Richard Klopp

Richard Klopp, Ph.D.’15, works across continents to strengthen small- to medium-sized nonprofit organizations by leading change management practices. Learn more about him and his background, knowledge, and experiences, and what led him to complete a Ph.D. in Philanthropic Studies.

What is your background?

I was born in Indianapolis, but grew up in the city of Timbuktu in Mali, where my parents did missionary work. We moved back to the U.S. when I was 18 and then moved to Canada two years later, where I became a Canadian citizen. 

I have worked in the nonprofit sector since 1990. I have mostly focused on start-up and turnaround; in other words, helping both nonprofits trying to launch business ventures, or businesses trying to launch social ventures. A lot of my work has been with organizations focused on Africa since that is where I grew up. 

I have developed a form of consulting that allowed me to work with small- to medium-sized ventures, by taking a position, either as staff or a contractor, and leading change management in that part of the organization or for the whole organization. In other words, I’m hired to lead the change needed in that organization. 

The problem I discerned early on is that the social sector was split between activists who didn’t pay enough attention to what academics in the sector write, and academics who didn’t pay enough attention to what practitioners do. I wanted to bridge that gap within myself and within my practice; for a practice informed by the best-known theory, and theory linked to best-of-class practice. Fortunately for me and my clients over the years since then, I found the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, where these two worlds come together in every class. 

What originally brought you to the school? 

I noticed early on in my career of helping organizations isolate and solve their managerial problems that most issues would somehow connect back to the way the organization was resourced. In other words, in order to solve problems on the demand side of organizations, I found myself constantly working on the supply side of these same organizations. 

The thought occurred to me that if my professional goal was to help my clients solve their problems, I should necessarily develop knowledge and expertise on philanthropy, fundraising, and any other topic associated with how social change ventures located and leveraged the resources they needed to function. To pursue this interest, initially I just read every book I could find on the topic. I gradually noticed that quite a few of these books were from Indiana University Press. This is how I found out about the then-Center on Philanthropy. 

In 2005, we moved from Québec City to Indianapolis, where I started the Ph.D. program. This was one of the best decisions I have made in my life, as it opened me up to learning, new colleagues, and the chance to hone my intellectual and practical skills so as to better help the organizations I continue to work with to this day. 

What kinds of practical knowledge did you gain at the school? 

I gained historical knowledge of philanthropy and the nonprofit sector, and have used this knowledge countless times now in the very practical work I do with and for my clients. What I learned via the school is that most problems organizations face have been faced by many others before. Often solutions can be found by looking back instead of looking around or forward. 

Knowing the history of the ideas that I was pursuing in my professional life has made me a much better manager as I work in the relief and international development sector. 

What are you doing now?

I have my own consultancy, AVENIR Consulting. I am working with organizations that raise philanthropic capital in order to use it to help under-served entrepreneurs grow their businesses. I’m focused on doing this both in North America and in Africa. 

The degree allowed me to professionalize my practice, develop an amazing network of colleagues from around the world, and work with clients that I know hire me due to the fact that I have a Ph.D. in Philanthropic Studies. 

Who do you most admire in the field of philanthropy? 

I admire the unsung heroes of philanthropy, the millions of people who care for others, help others, and in some practical way display other-oriented feelings and action in their milieu. They won’t make it into our books, and will never be a picture on the wall, never make the news, and will never be recognized for what they do—but this is the core of civil society and the deepest meaning of philanthropy: love of humankind.

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Lessons about philanthropy, the economy, and fundraising amid the pandemic


The coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected many aspects of society so far. How will it affect philanthropy? Our scholars and experts discuss the economy and stock market, and share advice for fundraisers during this uncertain time.

The Economy

It is established knowledge that the stock market affects giving now, and has impacted it in in the past. So, is it important to follow day-to-day trends in the stock market, or to study it long term?

Dr. Patrick Rooney, executive associate dean for academic programs and professor of economics and philanthropic studies, explained that both matter.

“It’s easier to follow day-to-day news about the economy,” he said. “It’s also beneficial to understand current economic trends when you’re discussing giving with your donors, as the stock market can affect their lives.

“However, our research has found that the day-to-day variation in the stock market really doesn’t predict changes in household giving. It’s more year-end to year-end.

“Longer-term trends matter. If donors, especially high-net worth donors, do gain money through the stock market in one year and then lose it the next, they may be less comfortable making big philanthropic investments. However, even if they decrease their giving from their stock assets, they may give more aggressively out of their income.”

Nonprofits and fundraisers should keep in mind that different types of donors, which include individuals, foundations, and corporations, may give differently. During the 2008 recession, the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy found that foundation giving can be counter-cyclical. In other words, foundations may actually give more during more challenging economic times. Corporate giving may vary by industry and sector. Individual giving is the most susceptible to changes in the overall economy.

In other words, donors can give out of multiple different channels. While the economy, GDP, the stock market, and tax policy play an important role in giving, they aren’t the only reasons why people give.

Advice for fundraisers

Don’t stop fundraising.

“People don’t give unless they are asked, for the most part. So continue to ask for those donations,” Dr. Rooney explained.

In addition, our Philanthropy Panel Study data from 2000-2016 demonstrated that while the percentage of households who gave declined during the Great Recession, households who continued to give, gave consistently during difficult economic conditions.

“Even though the Great Recession was the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression, many people didn’t stop giving,” explained Dr. Chelsea Clark, research associate at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “The dollar amount they gave may have changed, if income decreased, but most people gave a consistent percent of their income, even during hard times. Giving can become a habit. Even if the economy is hit hard, some people will not change their giving behaviors dramatically.”

Maintain communications with your donors.

“During times of economic slowdown or insecurity, nonprofits need to increase communications with their donors, who might be open to the possibility of special (additional) donations during this particular economic season,” said Bill Stanczykiewicz, assistant dean for external relations and director of The Fund Raising School.

Giving may decline at the moment, but continue to make your case.

Nonprofits may be concerned that donations from households may shift toward combating COVID-19. However, the report U.S. Household Disaster Giving in 2017 and 2018 states the majority (78 percent) of disaster aid donor households reported that their disaster giving did not affect their giving to other causes. Twelve percent reported an increase in their giving to other causes.

Stanczykiewicz noted that during times of uncertainty, philanthropic associations can provide a point of connection, a place to be known, a place to gather (within a certain distance), a place to share information, and a place to commiserate.

“The other two sectors can’t provide these opportunities for association; what Robert Payton referred to as ‘the gift of human presence,’ ” he said. “Nonprofits provide places to build social capital and to work together toward a better world.”

Check out our resources to help you weather the pandemic and economy

Learning from a growth perspective

Rachel Ploss study away course

By Rachel Ploss

When I first heard about the study away course for Sarasota, Florida with The Patterson Foundation, my first thought was “Where do I apply?”

As a young philanthropy student, I wanted nothing more than to spend my spring break in Florida and gain skills and experience for my career. I was so excited when I got the email that I was one of 10 students selected to participate in the course.

I was looking forward to all of the opportunities the course would bring, from academic learning to networking to gaining valuable experience. I was also very excited to spend my spring break in Florida, as I was planning to go to Smuggler’s Cove mini golf to play some mini golf with my classmates, as well as feed some gators since they have a live alligator exhibit.

With so much to look forward to, I was devastated when I got the email that our trip was canceled due to the coronavirus. I was so sad that we wouldn’t be able to go to Florida and experience events that The Patterson Foundation had planned for us, such as the drum circle, theatre experience, and so much more. But luckily, our class instructors, Pamela Clark and Marilyn Kuhn, worked with The Patterson Foundation to coordinate our work with them virtually.

Although it was not the spring break I was expecting and I didn’t get to feed or see any gators, I had a unique and valuable experience.

I got to work on the Margin & Mission Ignition Initiative with The Patterson Foundation, which focuses on boosting nonprofits’ margin and mission through earned income. I was selected to work with The Visual Arts Center of Punta Gorda, and primarily worked with the executive director, Janet Watermeier.

The mission of The Visual Arts Center is “to inspire, explore, create, and promote the visual arts.” Throughout two days, Janet helped me get to know The Visual Arts Center, as well as their earned income opportunity with their Art & Supply Store.

Their Art & Supply Store generates earned income by selling basic art supplies, logo items, a $1 snack bar, and customizable art kits that students buy for their art classes. This provides both students and the public with quality art supplies for their creative artwork. My role was to come up with a plan for them to build a strategic alliance to drive more revenue through the store, boosting their earned income revenue as well as impacting their mission.

I developed a plan to have The Visual Arts Center build upon their strategic alliance with the public schools and secure funding to sponsor an art class at each school so that the teachers would have $500 to spend on art supplies for their art classes. A lot of times schools lack funding for art classes and teachers end up paying for supplies out of their own pockets. This project fixes that issue and engages youth to be creative, encouraging STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math).

This plan also meets the goal to drive more revenue through the store and impact mission, as well as increase youth engagement with The Visual Arts Center.

It was absolutely wonderful to work with Janet and learn about The Visual Arts Center and figure out how I could provide something of value, as I am an artist myself. Janet was so knowledgeable and detail-orientated, which really helped me put together one of the best presentations I’ve ever given.

At first I was scared that I wouldn’t be good enough for the project, since I did not have consulting experience and I’m only 20 years old, but I wanted to do it because I knew it would help me grow.

With Janet’s guidance as well as Larry Clark’s support from the Margin & Mission Ignition Initiative, I definitely grew beyond my expectations. I learned how to switch from a fundraising mindset to a business mindset and think about long-term income, rather than one-time income.

I also learned what it means for a project to be high in margin and high in mission. I plan to use what I learned in my future philanthropic career to help me decide if a project is high in both margin and mission and good for the organization long term, as well as to think about things from a growth perspective, rather than just a fundraising or business perspective.

I plan to go into fundraising and development and I can’t wait to see how this experience will impact my future. I am forever grateful for the experience.

Learn more about our study abroad program

Learn more about our study away program