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7 ways to anchor your corporate coronavirus response in compassion

By Kayla O’Neill
March 16, 2020

Photo by Dimitri Karastelev on Unsplash

Reprinted from GlobalGiving.

The coronavirus has now spread to more than 100 countries and claimed more than 4,000 lives. Companies have been among the first to step up, pledging more than 80 percent of the total funds given to coronavirus response efforts.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has collected information about more than 85 companies providing aid to date. In addition to providing aid, companies are also dealing with the consequences of the outbreak on day-to-day operations, as conferences are canceled, financial markets respond, and proactive virus policies are drafted.

So, how can your company keep up, balancing your business needs while also contributing to the wider effort to reduce the outbreak’s impact? Here are seven actions you can consider:

1. Keep your employees safe

Many companies are reducing employee travel and offering work from home opportunities to their office workers. You can also use this opportunity to think critically about how your company should be supporting contractors and gig workers who may currently be without sick leave and paid time-off.

2. Listen to and learn from your peers

How are your corporate peers responding? What can you learn from their responses, and what’s worth emulating? Google set up a 24-hour incident response team to stay in sync with the World Health Organization, and its leaders meet daily to make virus-related decisions for its global offices. Amtrak and others crafted thoughtful customer cancellation policies. Video conference and messaging companies are providing free trials and extending free services to support remote workers. Lush Cosmetics invites anyone to come into their stores to wash their hands. Starbucks is taking precautions with extra sanitizing measures in their stores. Think about how you should alter your company’s core business practices to respond responsibly to COVID-19.

3. Explore creative professional development solutions

Major conferences by ACCP and Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship have been canceled out of caution for attendees’ health, but your learning as a CSR professional doesn’t need to stop. There are plenty of online resources you can tap into during this difficult time, including trainings from the conference hosts mentioned previously, webinars from Engage for Good, a 16-hour curriculum in social innovation from Babson College, and GlobalGiving’s Learn Library.

4. Offer virtual volunteering opportunities

In times of crisis, we feel the urge to help others. Give your remote employees the opportunity to serve, even as in-person group volunteering events may not be possible. Rather than allow social isolation, connect your employees with nonprofits that are making real change.

GlobalGiving’s virtual skilled volunteering platform, GlobalGivingTime, can match your employees with interesting opportunities from vetted nonprofits around the world, from the convenience of their desks. You can also consider a remote mentoring program which pairs nonprofits with your employees for specialized advice, or a board service program that matches nonprofits with your employee leaders to support governance and strategy.

5. Help your stakeholders help others

The most vulnerable people in any society are also the most disproportionately impacted by a crisis like the COVID-19 outbreak. The elderly and people with pre-existing health conditions, for example, face a greater risk of developing serious coronavirus complications. Furthermore, those without adequate access to healthcare or the resources to take time off from work may not get the care they need. To help those most vulnerable, consider setting up a few fundraising options for your employees, customers, or other stakeholders. Employees at companies like Microsoft have contributed to GlobalGiving’s Coronavirus Relief Fund.

Does your company encourage donations in times of crisis? You can further inspire your global team members to give by matching employee donations. You can also launch a giving page to fundraise for GlobalGiving’s Coronavirus Relief Fund or any of our nonprofit partners’ important coronavirus response projects.

6. Think local—and remember, cash is best

Needs in any crisis vary widely from community to community. Ask local community leaders how you can best help, and remember a cash donation—as opposed to an in-kind gift—gives responding organizations the flexibility to purchase the goods and services that their communities need the most.

Your investment in a local nonprofit responding to the coronavirus will also go far! Local nonprofits are vital to the coronavirus response effort, but they may lack the capacity to fundraise on a global scale. This means local nonprofits receive a much smaller share of charitable donations (a mere 2-3 percent of overall humanitarian funding).

7. Make a corporate grant

A corporate grant might be the right response for your company. If you have a global footprint or operations in a severely affected country like China or Italy, a grant to a select nonprofit partner focused on an activity that your company values or a community your company operates in—like this project focused on distributing hygiene kits in refugees camps in Lebanon—has the potential to make a big impact. GlobalGiving helped corporate foundations like Ford Motor Company Fund support local nonprofits in China responding to the virus outbreak. Learn more about what makes a grant different from a donation.

GlobalGiving has disbursed more than 185 grants totaling $11 million, to almost 70 Chinese organizations in the municipalities of Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai, and Tianjin and in the provinces of Hubei, Yunnan, Jiangsu, Sichuan, Guangdong, and Shaanxi since it began its role as an international grantmaking intermediary in China in 2008.

Tags: Novel coronavirus (COVID-19); Disaster philanthropy