Philanthropic Thinking

Giving in times of crisis

Published on
Written by
Ashley Neff
Victoria Nelmes

At Founders Pledge, we are a community motivated by doing as much good as we possibly can through finding and funding solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

We are deeply saddened by the ongoing events in Ukraine, as we were last summer when Kabul fell, and in 2020 when at the height of the conflict in Syria, 6,500 children were displaced every day for weeks on end. We care deeply about all those who have been and will be affected by global crises.

During times of crisis, it is natural to feel an overwhelming urge to support those affected in any way and as quickly as we possibly can. We recognise that our community is not only uniquely placed to support direct aid and relief efforts, but that they - like all of us - will want to do so.

As a donor with limited resources and time to address huge need in the world, it’s important to step back and focus on the most impactful solutions available. Through our research, which focuses on prioritizing problem areas and uncovering the highest-impact funding opportunities, we believe the most effective interventions seek to address the underlying causes of conflict and improve our ability to predict and mitigate global catastrophic risk. We outline our thinking, and make recommendations for long-term, preventative interventions, in our Great Power Conflict research. For more on why we recommend this approach, read our case for longtermism and safeguarding the future.

We’d also recommend channeling the desire to provide humanitarian help into our Global Health and Development Fund, which aims to tackle perpetual global inequalities in health, wealth and opportunity.

We are not best placed to advise on immediate relief efforts in Ukraine. However, to help guide your giving decisions further, we’ve adapted some principles from Our Approach to Charity, the framework that informs all of our research. Overall, we encourage you to balance the urge to help with careful consideration about where and how to give most effectively.

We are always on-hand to support our members, so if you’d like to discuss any of the ideas raised in this post, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with your community manager who can set you up with an advisor, or reach out to your personal philanthropic advisor.

1. Get informed

During and in the wake of crises, a variety of issues emerge on both large (national and international) and small scales (localized regions and communities). Try to learn about the situation and its complexities from reputable sources. This Global Shapers super.site1 gives a list of verified outlets providing information and updates on Ukraine.

Think about what resulting problems you may want to focus on. In many cases, immediate aid feels like the first and most essential option (e.g. food, medical support and supplies, clothing, shelter); but there are other, often longer-term, problems, too (e.g. the effects of violence or displacement, economic instability). By learning about the possible problems and available solutions, you can make more informed decisions about your giving. This could also be an opportunity to reflect on and set your wider giving goals, if you identify themes you’re interested in and causes you’re keen to support going forward.

2. Look for established organizations and groups

Unfortunately, large-scale crises can give way to fraudulent activity whereby bad actors look to take advantage of generosity and pocket donations for their own gain. Verify the recipient before making any donations.

Signs of reputability include legal charity status, successful outcomes, and strong financial management. If a group is new and has been launched in response to the crisis, look for connections to an established organization. Sites like Charity Navigator and GuideStar can be used to find some of this information for US organizations, and Charity Clarity in the UK.

3. Turn to those working on the ground

To make an immediate impact, look for organisations and groups that are providing relief and aid directly to those affected. They will better understand where and what support is needed as they actively respond to an evolving situation. For an up-to-date list of humanitarian interventions in Ukraine, we recommend the Global Shapers

One example is the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund, one of the UN’s country-based pooled funds, that serves as a general, unearmarked source of funding made directly and immediately available to a wide range of partner organizations on the front lines of response.

4. Factor in scale, neglectedness, and additionality / counterfactual impact

These are some of the ‘key impact indicators’ we use to identify the world’s most pressing problems. In basic terms, they relate to the size of a problem, how well funded it is, and the impact that your donation - or lack of donation - would have, respectively.

Think of them as lenses that can shift your perspective on a problem, and help shape your giving decisions.

The questions below provide a guide for applying each of these principles to a funding opportunity in order to better assess it.

  • Does this opportunity deliver solutions at scale with the scope of the problem?
  • Is this opportunity neglected by the funder community or is it already well-publicized and funded?
  • What additional value does my donation create beyond what's already empowered by the resources donated?
  • What's the impact created in the absence of my grant to this opportunity?

This VOX article adopts this line of questioning, and includes a number of ways to support the crisis in Ukraine.


  1. Global Shapers Ukraine led the crowdsourced effort to create these resources. Born out of the World Economic Forum, the Global Shapers Community is a network of inspiring young people under 30 working together to address local, regional, and global challenges.  

Ashley Neff

Ashley is a Communications Manager at Founders Pledge. Before joining in 2018, she helped build a startup supporting sustainable food systems and managed a development project, establishing a women’s entrepreneur network and business, in Tanzania.

Victoria Nelmes

Victoria is Communications Lead at Founders Pledge. Prior to joining the team in January 2022, she managed communications for the British Council, the UK’s principal cultural relations organisation.