Fighting the Coronavirus — The Role of Philanthropy

What might one of the world’s biggest pop stars have to do with the coronavirus emergency?

Fighting the Coronavirus – The Role of Philanthropy

The answer can be found behind the intriguingly titled article - "How Taylor Swift's Chinese Fans Are Helping Fight the Coronavirus". In addition to sharing a touching story about how various fan-based communities in China are coming together to assist those affected by the coronavirus outbreak, it also provides insights into effective philanthropic practices.

The Taylor Swift fan club’s approach included identifying immediate needs by phoning hospitals to ask what supplies are lacking; mobilising and organising people and resources efficiently; and holding themselves accountable through transparently reporting their activities. It is a powerful and multifaceted example of how to approach the designing and managing of philanthropic projects.

Those mobilising to respond to the coronavirus outbreak include community groups, multilateral institutions, national governments, businesses and philanthropists. A vast range of individuals and communities have the shared aim of arresting the pace of the outbreak, delivering protective gear and equipment to responders and supporting the development of vaccines and treatments for those affected.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that USD675 million is required to develop a global response plan1, and this urgency was matched by the actions of prominent foundations from both East and West. For example, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (The Gates Foundation) committed USD20 million in support of the WHO plan. In addition, the Gates Foundation pledged USD80 million in grants to support governments and researchers in the search for a vaccine, strengthen detection capabilities and limit the spread of the virus, especially in nations with weaker health infrastructure2. In Asia, the Jack Ma Foundation is working with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of Engineering, Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Health and other organisations to develop a vaccine3. Ma has also ensured that the capabilities of Alibaba Cloud are made available to provide artificial intelligence tools to support scientists in their research4.

Not unlike the Taylor Swift fan club, these efforts identify the most pressing needs, discuss with partner institutions where they can make the greatest difference and lean on their networks to coordinate a response plan. This user-centric and science-based approach is enabling governments and non-governmental organisations to take immediate steps to tackle the outbreak. Their efforts are highlighting the essential role of philanthropy globally during health emergencies.

While organisations such as the Gates Foundation and the Jack Ma Foundation are providing flexible funding to address immediate relief measures, there remains a requirement to support affected communities over time. This is to both tackle the effects of COVID-19, which continue to evolve, as well as encouraging recovery at the appropriate time. For those interested in understanding more, below are several considerations:

  • Local organisations serving low-income and vulnerable communities. Many elderly, ethnic minority and low-income families have been struggling to source and pay for protective equipment such as masks and sanitisation products in affected areas. The evidence suggests that they have less access to healthcare networks, while disability or language barriers can hinder communication with the healthcare professionals they are able to reach. Locally-based organisations with strong community ties will tend to be in prime position to assist with distributing resources, monitoring health conditions and helping donors keep track of the evolving needs of the communities they are assisting.
  • Organisations promoting health and hygiene. With the medical profession emphasising the importance of personal hygiene and handwashing to limit the spread of the virus, the distribution of protective gear, promotion of preventative behaviour and dissemination of accurate medical advice is invaluable. As one example, according to the Global Handwashing Partnership, handwashing with soap can cut acute respiratory infections by 25 per cent.5 Raising awareness about simple methods to promote hygiene and making available sanitising products can and will go a long way towards containing the virus and promoting healthy living.
  • Institutions focused on medical research. In addition to vaccines and anti-viral drugs, there is still much to understand about the long-term health impact of those infected by COVID-19. As most of the funding for research is currently being channelled towards resolving the coronavirus outbreak, scientists still need support for research that is unrelated to the immediate crisis, but nonetheless vital to the future wellbeing of millions of people. Such avenues of research, even if not directly related, are often still useful when emergencies such as the coronavirus outbreak occur. For instance, it was the millions of dollars in funding dedicated to genomic research over the past decade that enabled scientists to map the DNA sequencing of COVID-19 within just a few weeks.
  • Groups providing services to address mental health challenges. From those individuals under self-quarantine to families who have lost loved ones, there is a considerable need for services to help with the effects of social isolation, anxiety and grief. Mental health affects how an individual thinks, feels and acts, influences his or her willingness to engage with others and contributes to their overall satisfaction with life. Collectively, it can also affect a society’s productivity and social cohesion. In addition to enabling the provision of professional help, philanthropists can support organisations using online tools to provide mentoring and counselling services. These services are necessary because they can help vulnerable individuals stay connected with others and receive the support they require.
  • Institutions working on recovery and emergency preparedness plans. The golden rule of crisis management is to remain vigilant, both through practice exercises and by considering the lessons learned from other representative crises. Philanthropists and charitable organisations are in a unique position to help public health institutions and NGOs learn from past experiences, a relatively underfunded focus area. The beneficiaries of such funding will have the opportunity to build capacity and lay the groundwork for initiatives, as well as set up systems and infrastructure, so as to be prepared for future health emergencies.

These are only a few of the ways individuals and organisations can use their resources and networks to aid in the recovery from a health emergency. For our part, HSBC Private Banking has been working with clients to identify areas in need and assisting them make their donations. Our own involvement has included the purchasing of medical equipment for a hospital in the Greater Bay Area, providing financial and non-financial aid to Hong Kong residents under quarantine and making grants to families who lost their source of income due to the coronavirus’ impact on the hospitality, catering and tourism sectors.

Long-term thinking is required to restore the economic damage already caused by the coronavirus. Building more resilient communities during recovery requires the smart allocation of resources to address health-related issues, as well as an integrated plan involving effective policymaking, the strengthening of social ties and building of sustainable infrastructure. We have been working closely with our clients to address the issues afflicting their communities wherever that may be.

Please contact your Relationship Manager or contact us to discuss how we can assist you in achieving your philanthropic goals.

1 World Health Organization Website. Last accessed 17 February 2020
2 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Website. Last accessed 17 February 2020
3 Jack Ma Foundation Official WeChat Account. Last accessed 17 February 2020
4 Xinhua "Jack Ma Foundation donates another 1.4 mln USD for coronavirus drug development" published 14 February 2020. Last accessed 17 February 2020
5 Global Handwashing Partnership Website. Last accessed 18 February 2020
Back to top Back to top

Legal Information

The information on this site refers to services or products which are not available in certain locations, or which, in any relevant location, may have components, methods, structures and terms different from the ones described, as well as restrictions on client eligibility. Please contact a Relationship Manager for details of services and products that may be available to you.

The use of the label ‘HSBC Private Banking’, ‘HSBC Private Bank’, ‘we’, or ‘us’ refers to HSBC’s worldwide private banking business, and is not indicative of any legal entity or relationship.

Unless specifically stated otherwise, nothing here is to be deemed an offer, solicitation, endorsement, or recommendation to buy or sell any general or specific product, service or security and should not be considered to constitute investment advice.

This information is entirely qualified by reference to the terms and conditions of the specific service, if any, provided by the relevant HSBC company.

Please note that HSBC Private Bank does not provide Legal and Tax Advice.

Before proceeding, please refer to the full disclaimer and the Terms and Conditions. Read more