Skip to main content

How Four Donors Responded to the Pandemic

Donors shift their giving to meet community needs.

2020 has not only changed how we live, but also how we give.

At the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, our donors have been finding ways to shift their giving to meet the needs of their communities, which includes responding to COVID-19.

In some cases, they are leveraging their donor advised funds (DAFs) as a flexible tool that allows them to respond to the needs of our times that align with their passions.

With such uncertainty one might think that giving might wane, but at the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, our donors have made record-breaking grants, including to the Minnesota Disaster Recovery Fund, which was established to support communities affected by the coronavirus crisis.

Below, four donors share how 2020 has not only changed how they look at living, but also how they look at giving.

David and Janet Change How They Give

Over the last seven years, David and Janet have used their donor advised fund to support arts organizations, but in the wake of COVID-19, the couple made it their purpose to support organizations that provide essential services to the community, such as Second Harvest Heartland and the Midway YMCA.

“These are very different times that require different thinking,” David said. “We've been fortunate enough to have this money, and we have an obligation to direct it. Obligations change when we have greater circumstances.”

David and Janet, Foundation donors

David and Janet, Foundation fundholders

Abby and Ken, Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation fundholders

Abby and Ken, Foundation fundholders

Abby Helps Youth & Families

Through their fund, Abby and her family have been supporting a variety of interests including food shelves, youth programs, conservation and music. Recent racial tensions in our country have also influenced how she looks at giving.

"I have a hot button now, and it is around anti-racism," said Abby.

For years, Abby has also been a supporter of the Community Sharing Fund, where she often referred clients for services during her time as a social worker.

“I’d go to homes of people who had so little,” said Abby. It’s doing the small things that make a huge difference. It (Community Sharing Fund) was a way for me to provide some help and hope.”

Mary’s Gift of Vision in Dark Times

Thanks to Mary, parents can now see their babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) any time, day or night. Mary serves as the advisor for a donor advised fund created by her dear neighbor Sydney before her death. Sydney’s love for babies inspired Mary to give to M Health Fairview St. John’s Hospital in Maplewood, where her donation helped fund the installation of cameras in the NICU, allowing parents to view their babies from iPads.

“Cameras were installed the same day the Governor issued the official stay-at-home order on March 27,” said Mary, who appreciates that the Foundation has allowed her to support the causes important to Sydney and to her through the fund.

“I kind of did what works best for me, which is what Sydney would really like,” she said. “Education and babies were some of her top priorities.”

Mary and Sydney

Mary and Sydney

Sue, Foundation fundholder, with Gina, founder of Ziggy's Art Bus

Sue Offers A Resource in Times of Need

For Sue, giving is a family affair. Once something she did with her siblings, charity is now a practice she carries out with her own children.

Sue uses her fund to support her church, people with disabilities and the arts. Since COVID-19, she has ramped up her giving to provide people with resources in their times of need.

“In the different organizations that I’m giving to or we as a family are giving to, there are deeper needs that are rising up, like there’s a lot homelessness and issues with suicide,” said Sue. “I’m deeply involved with those organizations so it really helps me to see the need. I can be hands-on and meet the need where it is.”

Sue also supports On Our Own, TreeHouse and Ziggy’s Art Bus, which partners with Crescent Cove, one of our nonprofit endowment fundholders, to provide children with serious and life-limiting illnesses free guided art experiences.

Learn More

If you would like to learn more about DAFs, contact one of our gift planners by calling 651.224.5463 or emailing

If you already have a fund with the Foundation, we're always happy to explore charitable options with you. Contact your philanthropic advisor to talk about how you can support the immediate needs in your community.

More Stories

Donated Real Estate Turned into Community Resources

Learn how Lisa and Jerry O'Brien turned their condominium into continuous support for their favorite causes.

Learn More

Charitable Giving Legislation in the News

Our response to the proposed Accelerating Charitable Giving (ACE) Act

Learn More

Beyond ESG: Sustainable Investment

Chief Investment Officer Shannon O’Leary participated in a global panel discussion on sustainable investment trends.

Watch the video

Gift Bunching: A Way to Maximize Your Charitable Impact

With a technique known as gift bunching, you can maintain your charitable impact while realizing potential tax benefits.

Watch the video

Our Online Donor Toolkit

This resource will help you identify and clarify your values, interests and charitable vision.

Learn More

Local Experts Share Findings on Age-Related Health Inequities

Three nonprofit partners share insights about health equity in the age of COVID-19, and the role the pandemic has played in exacerbating disparities faced by older adults.

Watch the video

Gifts of Grain

Here’s how one Minnesota farmer turned his crops into resources for the community.

Learn More



* Indicates a required field