All around the world, both small and large companies are being hardly hit by the COVID-19 crisis, causing employers to change their business strategies and even lay off employees. Whilst trying to protect businesses and livelihoods during the global pandemic, it’s easy to lose sight of the surrounding ecosystem of people, communities and non-profits doing critical social good. However, the long-term survival of many businesses relies heavily on the overall prosperity of this ecosystem.
As we’re seeing through our clients and network at I.G. Advisors, non-profits are experiencing an unprecedented surge in demand for their services, and a concurrent decrease in funding availability due to donors’ changing financial circumstances. Whether they are prospering or resizing as a result of the global crisis, businesses can play a key role mitigating this worrying phenomenon, where even the smallest actions make an enormous difference:
Provide unrestricted funding
If your business has been spared from financial hardship, the first recommended action would be to renew and strengthen your existing partnerships. Now more than ever, charities need that extra grant and they need it to be flexible. Unrestricted support allows for greater flexibility in the response to changing needs, which could range from pivoting an existing programme, creating a new one, or simply paying overhead costs to keep their staff on the payroll.
Develop long-term partnerships
If you are in the (enviable) position to give back more, this is a great opportunity to establish new partnerships. But during a global emergency, when so many sectors desperately need extra support, how do you go about and pick your new partner? Adopting a long-term vision is often helpful. In order to build meaningful partnerships that have the potential to outlast the emergency, you need to ensure that the organisations you decide to support reflect your company values, and that your employees are consulted or involved throughout the process. When a partnership is meaningful and strategic for all parties involved, it has better chances of being successful and lasting over time.
Make in-kind donations
If you are not able to offer financial support, or if you simply want to do more than that, in-kind donations are a great way to bolster the sector. As demand for non-profits’ services increases, so does their need for supplies, internal capacity, and expertise. Whether it’s medical and food products, transport and logistics, accommodation, web design, marketing consultancy work, phone credits – there are so many ways to add value.
Offering in-kind support is also a great way to engage homebound employees. For instance, connecting staff through (virtual) volunteering activities could contribute to building a stronger sense of cohesion and community, especially at a time when self-isolation norms are silently detaching everyone from reality – let alone the workplace.
Small, local charities are often the most vulnerable during times of crisis, as they have less access to support and limited capacity to fundraise, in comparison to their larger, international peers. If you can, try and reach out to local organisations first. This will contribute to forming a tighter support network for both your local community and your employees, as well as creating efficiencies and economies of scale, especially when it comes to product donations.
Be vocal about your stance
Whilst it would not be advisable to leverage this crisis exclusively for marketing opportunities, being vocal about your stance and the focus areas you prioritise as a company can indeed benefit the charity sector in several ways. Firstly, it would give non-profits a better understanding of the opportunities available to them. Secondly, it would make it easier to engage in collaborative interventions with other key stakeholders that support similar causes, creating synergies and efficiencies. Last, but not least, your company’s message could be a call to action for all your stakeholders, including employees, clients, customers, and even competitors. Your leadership could play an important role by advocating for concrete solutions to existing problems or promoting collaboration.
As COVID-19 has been affecting individuals, businesses, and non-profits in various ways, it would be impossible to offer a one-size-fits-all approach to corporate social impact. However, these recommendations can be used as a source of inspiration to get internal conversations started, develop an action plan and coordinate a collective response for the social impact ecosystem we all depend on.
Jasmine Awad, I.G. Advisors