News & Resources

Giving In 2020 – Lessons from Dolly Parton

By Gioia C. Perugini

As I sat down to write a post about year end giving from my remote home office, I had a thousand different thoughts I wanted to share. How could you sum up charitable giving in 2020 in a short blog post? Then I read a Washington Post article about how Dolly Parton’s chance encounter at Vanderbilt University Medical Center after a 2013 minor car crash led to an enduring friendship with Naji Abumrad, a physician and professor of surgery. According to the story, the two struck up a friendship based on shared experiences growing up in rural poverty, and a mutual interest in and love of science. When the pandemic hit, Dolly Parton turned to her friend Dr. Abumrad, who told her about promising research happening at Vanderbilt. The result was a six figure gift to the research at Vanderbilt in honor of Dr. Abumrad. This research was linked directly to the recently-announced success of the development of a coronavirus vaccine that could be available by year end. Dolly Parton’s response: “I’m just happy that anything I do can help somebody else, and when I donated the money to the Covid fund, I just wanted it to do good.” I’ve worked with donors to craft gifts of all shapes and sizes, and this statement sums up the intent of nearly every donor, whether you are giving $25 or $1 million. More than anything else this year, the spirit of generosity remains true. The building blocks of supporting good work about which you are passionate and with organizations that can be effective at making change is the approach we take with clients, no matter the year or the issue. This year has called upon donors to dig deep and in some ways to radically reimagine how they do their giving, while remaining true to the core of helping others.

So what have we taken away from this year, as we enter the last month of the year and as Giving Tuesday approaches.


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