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18 Mar. 2020 | Comments (0)

Two months ago, corporate citizenship and philanthropy professionals were primarily treating the then-outbreak of COVID-19 through their disaster relief plans and focusing on China. Now is the time to shift gears by looking at our own communities and those most vulnerable through the lens of our entire portfolios. We learned a lot about community needs and the organizations that support them from the 2008 recession. There are correlations, both economically and socially.

What corporate citizenship professionals can do now:

  • Work with your on-the-ground community relations teams, facility management, and employees to determine the greatest local needs.
  • Determine how to best support those needs through global, national, regional, and local organizations.
  • Provide general operating support so organizations can pay their employees and keep the lights on.
  • Temporarily free up previously restricted grants to give organizations the financial flexibility they need.
  • Continue to pay planned fundraising event support/sponsorship even as events are cancelled or postponed.
  • Provide opportunities for employees to help.

Why those steps are so critical:

  • Local needs: Most aspects of everyday life are slowing or stopping, while medical facilities are overwhelmed. Many will be out of work without pay, working without childcare, or struggling to afford such basics as healthcare and housing. Those already living on the margins will be hardest hit. Government entities are providing various forms of relief, but timing will not always meet needs. Helping organizations, and all employers, avoid layoffs helps those individuals most often in need and will positively affect Consumer Confidence, spending, and GDP.
  • NGOs’ and nonprofits’ ability to cope: Nonprofit organizations, usually operating on tight budgets, depend on planned cash flow and deliver a planned level of service. Now, NGOs may experience a dramatic increase in need for their services even as their funding sources are disrupted. Cultural organizations are cancelling performances, which halts cash flow and even employee pay as admission revenue disappears. Fundraising events that provide a significant percentage of some nonprofits’ operating revenue are being cancelled. Corporations can help by maintaining and even expanding their contribution levels and enabling them to be used for general operating expenses.
  • Employee expectations: In times of crisis, employees ask: What is the company doing?  What can I do to support fellow employees and the general population? Now, most regular employee volunteer opportunities can’t take place due to possible contagion. Virtual volunteering is an alternative. Employee giving programs should be emphasized. Consider enhancing your match during the pandemic. Look at your employee relief guidelines and revise as necessary.
  • Resources: Individual and corporate resources are finite, but there are many organizations that companies can choose to partner or work with to increase their charitable impact. Corporations and businesses of all sizes have an opportunity to use core competencies and resources to help where help is needed most.

Contact local foundations, civic organizations, and governments, as they know where support should go. Food banks, shelters, clinics/hospitals, and relief organizations are in particular need.

Online resources:

Businesses, government agencies, NGOs, civic groups, neighbors, families, and friends are working together to help. In a time of uncertainty, it’s incumbent on all of us to do what we can to help those in even greater need.

  • About the Author:Jeff Hoffman

    Jeff Hoffman

    Jeff Hoffman is an accomplished corporate executive who has served on the global stage. Through board and commission leadership roles, he has a distinguished history working with business, non-profit,…

    Full Bio | More from Jeff Hoffman


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