Corporate fundraising during COVID-19

June 30, 2020
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At the GivenGain Foundation, we’ve been working hard to provide charities with the tools and know-how to continue raising much-needed funds during these challenging times. Hence our latest series of webinars!

In our most recent one, ‘Exploring corporate fundraising during COVID-19’, we explored the challenges companies have faced in continuing their social responsibility initiatives during confinement. We wanted to understand how they developed or continued impactful relationships with charity partners and engaged their distributed employees through team fundraising.

We were thrilled to be joined by incredible guest speakers from the private and charity sectors who shared their organisations' experiences of corporate fundraising.

Meet the panellists:

  • Joshua Sherman – former Director of Digital, Media and Sponsorship, TAG Heuer
  • Harrie Bakst – Partner and Co-Founder, WCPG
  • Lauren Teasdale – Managing Director at Greenpop
  • Robert Diaz – Co-Founder at Social Endurance
  • Barbara Jordan – Regional Engagement Manager EMEA, Z Zurich Foundation

It was a jam-packed hour with a lot of information, and we’ve rounded up some of the key points.

Are corporates still giving?

It seems that coronavirus is putting corporate social responsibility to the test. When the pressure is on and governments are overloaded, it’s up to businesses small and large to help their employees, customers and the community to get through these difficult times.

“It was the corporate market that really stepped up to help communities. Whether it was providing life-saving machines for hospitals or PPE, companies such as Apple, Dyson and Ford reacted very quickly to make a positive social impact,” said Harrie Bakst from WCPG.

When the pressure is on and governments are overloaded, it’s up to businesses small and large to help their employees, customers and the community to get through these difficult times.

“It’s promising that there’s a willingness to give back to the community.,” Robert Diaz, Co-Founder of Social Endurance, explained, in turn. “Employees still want to give to charity, and they want to give in a big way, particularly to causes that help with the need at this time.”

However, the dramatic effect of coronavirus has meant that many companies have been struggling. Lauren Teasdale, MD at non-profit Greenpop, explained that since the beginning of lockdown measures in South Africa, the charity has lost 30% of their corporate partners, with many others reducing their contributions to the cause. Most of Greenpop’s corporate partners are within the tourism industry, which has been badly affected by the pandemic, reducing their propensity to engage with the charity.

What was made very clear is the penalty for sitting out. “Corporates can’t sit on the side-lines. They have to take a stance, or they will lose relevance. But there’s so much noise, so a company needs to look at what they can do to visibly help, and what is a concrete action, such as providing food packages to those in need,” explained Joshua Sherman, former Director of Digital, Media and Sponsorship at TAG Heuer.

However, this is not without its difficulties as the different avenues for corporates to get involved with charities shrink and profits go into free-fall. “Physical fundraising events are being cancelled, large peer-to-peer fundraising opportunities such as endurance events are postponed, so what do you do in terms of your fundraising toolbox?” asked Harrie.

Companies need to find other ways to help charities, such as offering practical support or goods. For example, Dyson, known for their vacuum cleaners, used their factories to manufacture 15,000 ventilators for medical facilities. Plus, shoe company Crocs has been donating 10,000 pairs of shoes per day to medical professionals.

The resilience and creativity of individual fundraisers has transformed the fundraising landscape and corporates should utilise new technologies and explore new fundraising concepts.

Harrie also went on to suggest that corporates should explore individual giving in the workplace and increase impact with corporate matching schemes. The resilience and creativity of individual fundraisers has transformed the fundraising landscape and corporates should utilise new technologies and explore new fundraising concepts.

What charities are corporates supporting?

Many corporates have decided to reassess their CSR strategy and fundraising initiatives, often leaving non-pandemic focused charities feeling abandoned. “Companies are getting on the band-wagon,” said Joshua.

“Before COVID-19, corporates would often look for charities that reinforce their brand position or their commercial missions. Now what we are seeing is that a lot of that is being put aside and a brand is trying to see how they can position themselves in relation to the crisis. At least for now companies are moving to a reactive rather proactive approach to charities.”

Greenpop worked together with one of their corporate partners BOS Ice Tea to address the need within the community. “We had to adapt dramatically,”  Lauren agreed. “We asked ourselves, what do corporates want to fund? A lot of corporates want to be involved in emergency relief, so we decided to develop a food garden project.”

“A corporate has to have a strategy that resonates with their mission. But there also has to be flexibility in that strategy to be able to support certain things that come up, such as social injustices or the pandemic,” explained Robert. “Corporates such as Master Electronics continue to give to their existing charities but at the same time, they see the need in their community and across the world to step up their fundraising efforts.”

Barbara from Z Zurich Foundation took the opposite view: “We wanted to show our support to our existing charity partners during these challenging times,” she said, demonstrating the company’s commitment to continue long-standing charity relationships, but added that it’s also important to react to the current situation.

How are corporates engaging distributed employees?

“As a corporate foundation, employee engagement is one of our key objectives, and fundraising by Zurich employees has always been encouraged. This hasn’t changed during lockdown,” Barbara continued. It seems that individuals’ willingness to support their community in this time of need is bigger than ever, and moreover made possible through digital platforms.

The Z Zurich Foundation recognised the responsibility to bring their employees together with offices being closed and staff members working from home, as well as the responsibility to give their employees the opportunity to help those in need. “We asked our employees to reach out to their chosen charities to see how they can help, which really empowered our staff members. This has increased engagement and led to staff-led fundraising projects, such as dance contests, virtual fundraising events or asking colleagues to donate their commute,” she said.

Advice for charities looking for corporate partners

When looking to engage with a corporate partner, one of the best places to start is your list of existing donors. “Look through your database of supporters to find out who has already engaged with your charity, and connect with those corporates,” suggested Robert. As well as CSR managers, charities should also reach out to human resources teams with regard to employee fundraising and improving corporate culture. “They will have a mandate for that and a commitment to make staff members feel as though they are part of their community. Look at what’s the best way in,” said Joshua.

The best partnerships “find mutual benefits and go beyond the figures to include non-financial measures such as time or skills,” added Barbara. Lauren also highlighted the importance of building a strong relationship, with honesty and transparency playing a huge role. “Personal relationships are the best way forward. Find corporates that you can relate to and build a personal and open connection.” A close connection between a charity and a corporate partner will lead to better alignment of needs and help with pivoting fundraising efforts in times of crisis, to the benefit of both parties.

Finally, defining relevance to a corporate partner is going to be essential for non COVID-related charities. It is more important than ever to understand the key role that your charity plays and how your cause benefits both the company and the wider society.

If you have any questions about the topics discussed, or would like to find out more about corporate fundraising with GivenGain, please email