Corporate Philanthropy during the Covid-19 Pandemic in Brazil

Marketa Jerabek – PhD (University of São Paulo and King’s College London)
Researcher in Brazilian philanthropy at the Department of Humanities and Applied Social Sciences at the José Luiz Egydio Setúbal Foundation

Graphic shows the evolution of Covid-19 related donations in Brazil

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused much grief around the world. It is not only a health but also an economic calamity. It is equally a humanitarian and a moral/ethical crisis. The pandemic underlines yet again the tragic consequences of the historical inequalities in Brazil. A recent study based on data on São Paulo city – the most populous city in Brazil and Latin America – shows that the education level, the number of people living in the same household, race and the income determine the likelihood of dying from Covid-19 (Ribeiro et al. 2021). Equally important is the consideration of the long-term consequences of the pandemic that will unsurprisingly affect vulnerable communities in the country to a much higher extent. A study commissioned by the Lemann Foundation predicts major repercussions in Brazil’s education performance, in which children and adolescents from the poorest, socially vulnerable communities are forecasted to be most affected (Lemann Foundation, 2021). The pandemic has also negatively impacted different civil society organizations in Brazil, given their difficulties in raising funds and lack of institutional conditions to provide essential services in health care and other social services (GIFE, 2020). The economic recession during the pandemic will have a long-term and damaging socio-economic impact on millions of socially deprived Brazilians, leaving no doubt as to the importance of public policies (Lucca-Silveira and Furquim, 2021).

This multi-dimensional crisis calls for adequate emergency responses from the government, but also from the private sector and the civil society. Amidst this tragedy, a little spark of hope is the impressive amount of donations made by the public, private and third sector that Brazil has received since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 – which are consolidated at the Monitor das Doações platform (ABCR, 2021), initiated by ABCR (Associação Brasileira dos Captadores de Recursos, the Brazilian Fundraiser Association) to monitor donations. Philanthropic projects and initiatives from corporations, individuals and private and corporate foundations mushroomed since the beginning of the pandemic which is reflected in an impressive historic sum of donations of over 6.7 billion of BRL. Corporations were in fact responsible for more than 85% of the 6.7 billion BRL donated. The donations are mainly destined for the public administration, hospitals, civil society organizations, vulnerable communities, and own projects in communities where the corporations are located (ABCR, 2021; Lucca-Silveira et al. 2021).

We from the Philanthropy Research Group Núcleo de Pesquisa em Filantropia of the José Luiz Egydio Setúbal Foundation (FJLES) took these data – more specifically, the donations of the 150 biggest donors – as an opportunity to reflect on corporate philanthropy in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond. We also conducted several interviews with key players in Brazilian philanthropy – speaking with 9 of the 25 biggest donors – to understand the donations related to decision-making processes and key lessons that might provide guidance for corporate philanthropy and the broader role of corporations in Brazilian society in the future. The research is part of a research series hosted by GIFE, the association of Brazilian social investors, to foment research about philanthropic actions during the Covid-19 pandemic for a better understanding on the effectiveness of philanthropic contributions during this crisis.

The results of our study regarding corporate donations provide a strong indication of an ample potential for corporations to reconcile pro-business and pro-social good agendas across different economic sectors. The experiences in the pandemic context constitute a rich set of learning lessons (Lucca-Silveira et al. 2021):

(i) Corporations learned the necessity to make certain decision-making processes less bureaucratic in order to engage as rapidly as possible when it comes to philanthropic actions, especially in emergency situations, and the importance of the creation of crisis committees that enabled rapid intraorganizational collaboration.

(ii) Not surprisingly, philanthropic Covid-19 projects that counted on previously invested resources and previous pre-pandemic knowledge in social corporate responsibility were implemented with more ease and drew upon better internal cooperation in the corporation.

(iii) The experiences by the corporations stress the key role of cooperation with partner institutions, such as civil society organizations with their expertise “on-the-ground” and the need to strengthen the institutional structure of organizations that receive donations and establish more trust among partner institutions to achieve the best results.

(iv) Last but not least, in alignment with the UN sustainable development goals, a common narrative among the interviewees arose; this was regarding the necessity to amplify the shared-value strategy by which a corporation can create value for other organizations such as micro-producers or cooperatives.

With our research, we hope to initiate a debate about the role of private actors, with an emphasis on corporate philanthropy and corporation’s role in the Brazilian society during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond and especially when it comes to the protection of the most vulnerable communities across the country.

ABCR (2021). Monitor das Doações. Available at:, accessed on April 1, 2021.

GIFE (2020). Para 73% das OSCs, pandemia diminuiu captação de recursos, aponta pesquisa. Available at:, accessed on April 1, 2021.

Lucca-Silveira, Marcos Paulo de; Furquim, Lilian (2021). A implementação de programas sociais sob uma perspectiva ética. Available at:, accessed on April 1, 2021.

Lucca-Silveira, Marcos Paulo de; Jerabek, Marketa, Rodrigues, Pietro; Vergueiro, João Paulo; Woods, Marcia Kalvon (2021). Estudos Emergência Covid-19 – Filantropia corporativa no Brasil: uma análise das doações empresariais em meio à pandemia da Covid-19. ISSN: 978-65-86701-11-1. Available at:, accessed on April 1, 2021.

Lemann Foundation (2021). Pandemic Could Set Back Education Gains by 4 Years:, accessed on April 1, 2021.

Ribeiro, Karina Braga; Ribeiro, Ana Freitas; Vera, de Sousa Mascena Veras, Marcia Amélia; de Castro, Marcia Caldas (2021). Social inequalities and Covid-19 mortality in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, International Journal of Epistemology, doi: 10.1093/ije/dyab022.

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