From the Editor

From the Editor: Giving in the Age of COVID-19

Susan Burns on why philanthropy is more important than ever.

By Susan Burns April 1, 2020 Published in the April 2020 issue of Sarasota Magazine

Image: Shutterstock


Sarasota loves fund-raising galas, and that held true even days after the first cases of coronavirus appeared in Florida in late February. I attended two benefits the first week in March, one in the Sarasota Sailor Circus Arena for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida and the second at the Ritz-Carlton for the Asolo Repertory Theatre. I wondered if there would be lots of empty seats because people had decided to avoid crowds, but both events were packed.

There was one huge difference, though, and it made for some strange moments at these affairs, which, at their most basic level, are social. People weren’t touching.

Susan Burns

Image: Lori Sax

I normally greet friends with a hug, and new acquaintances with a handshake, but there was none of that. Like most people, I found myself stepping forward and then folding my arms across my waist or, if someone raised their elbow, we’d laugh and do the bump. Dr. Gary Bockhold, who’s been my optometrist for decades, was at one event, and told me he felt a little lost and sad. “It made me realize how many of my patients I hug,” he said.

The organizers of the Asolo gala, who put on a gorgeous Bollywood-themed evening—even the men were decked out in turbans and brocade sherwanis and silk kurtas—sent an email in advance of the event to encourage people to greet one another with the traditional Indian namaste (“I bow to you” in Sanskrit), bringing the palms of their hands together, while performing a slight bow. I studied in India for six months when I was a college student and always loved that greeting. It shows respect and honor and is a much safer and less clumsy greeting than the ubiquitous and overly familiar hug.

Of course, as I write this, the coronavirus is ravaging the country and the world. People are sheltering in place. But you can still show your generosity, thanks to a unique event that allows you to give from the safety of your own home.

The Community Foundation of Sarasota is hosting its seventh 24-hour Giving Challenge event April 28-29 from noon to noon. It’s a digital campaign, so you can give just by touching your laptop or cell phone. You log onto the site, choose from among 700-plus nonprofits—the Community Foundation’s Giving Partner provides an easy way to evaluate each nonprofit’s needs, financials and governance—and then type in the amount you want to give. All the money raised goes toward unrestricted funds.

The first six Giving Challenges raised $40 million for local nonprofits. As Community Foundation CEO Roxie Jerde told me, “People here rally. They care about these organizations and understand we need them for a vibrant community. Pride, passion and generosity all collide in a way that’s pretty magical.”

Susan Burns
Editor in Chief

Filed under
Show Comments