In early March, $6,500 could buy you and three friends a round of golf on an island in Charleston, South Carolina, accompanied by a former NFL quarterback or maybe even Chris Tomlin. When the sun sank behind moss-draped live oaks and blackwater marshes, you could retire to a country club for cool drinks and a private show with Grammy-nominated band Needtobreathe.

And in the surreal psychology of philanthropic events, you could have done all this in solidarity with some of the world’s poorest people, your fee going to improve health care in places where a bite from the wrong mosquito or a sip from the wrong faucet can end your life.

At least that’s how OneWorld Health, a Christian medical nonprofit, was marketing its big spring fundraiser.

By the middle of March, however, no amount of money could secure you a berth at a charity golf tournament or gala or silent auction anywhere in the country. Virtually all of them were being canceled. COVID-19 was burning its way across the globe and, for all anyone knew, it was just waiting to press the flesh in VIP circles at such gatherings.

OneWorld Health called off its Needtobreathe Classic on March 13. “It was an easy decision to make, the right decision,” said executive director Michael O’Neal. “But it certainly leaves a hole in terms of operational funds.”

The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic threatens to decimate nonprofit groups. Churches, forced to livestream or outright cancel worship services, wonder what will happen when offering plates cannot be passed. Missions groups, forced to halt international travel, ask how long they can survive without sending workers into the field. Everyone worries how big donors will respond as investments ...

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