As governments, businesses, and individuals scramble to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, Corporate Grantmakers and those of us who work in the social sector rightly ask what we can do to effectively contribute. As part of the humanitarian ecosystem, we are collectively and uniquely positioned to help society, communities and government to respond and prepare.
Although not exhaustive, the following list is aimed at short-term responses to provide guidance in making immediate decisions and for playing your part in the challenging environment we currently experience.
1. Increase communication with your partners:
Connect with the existing organizations you fund. Just like you are organizing your business right now to deal with the pandemic, so are the social purpose organizations you are supporting. Thank them for the work they do and ask them what their immediate needs are. See how you can support them, by leveraging your resources, networks and assets.
For example: Social purpose organizations may need additional funds for networking and connectivity. As the world moves online, very few non-profit, social purpose, humanitarian and community-based organisations can take advantage of online networking, communication and social media channels and remote working.
See how you can enable them by paying for their data, network and associated costs.
2. Provide unrestricted funding and remove restrictions on existing grants:
Even if you currently do not provide unrestricted funding, remember that to scale operations, to cover more communities, to provide better and more services, social purpose organizations will need to move quickly to curb the pandemic.
For example: Community-based organizations are currently focused on mobilizing, on growing, increasing and extending their services and recruiting additional resources. They do not have the time to send in lengthy proposals, conduct extensive research, nor do they have the time to recalculate budgets. Please engage and remove restrictions.
Also, remember more volunteers and staff will be needed to move to 24-hour operations. This will mean an increase in salaries, more offices, more administration and data costs, transport and many more operational expenses. Very few organizations have reserves – so please pay additional for service delivery and do not only focus on programme related expenses, but also include operational costs in both new and existing interventions.
3. Support organizations front and centre of the pandemic:
Organizations are stepping in where there is currently little information, services and resources. Prioritize those organisations in the health care and supporting sectors.
For example: Use your business resources to open supply chains, buy in bulk, and distribute goods such as protective clothing, hand sanitizers, masks, etc. to relief organizations.
Extend your influence and organize bulk buys with manufacturers, retailers and distribution/logistics companies to secure food and water or use your production capacity to produce more goods (consumables such as toilet paper and long-life milk) and deliver these to community-based organizations.
4. Suspend reporting requirements and site visits:
Now is not the time to have detailed and restrictive reporting/governance requirements, nor long funding cycles. Cash will matter and make a huge difference.
For example: The current situation requires all hands on deck. Already constrained organizations need to focus on service delivery and not administrative burdens such as reporting and lengthy/complicated verification services, nor submitting copious amounts of papers and documents.
Show solidarity by enabling them to move quicker and faster and relax your grant making criteria and reporting requirements. In addition, rather than placing the burden on social/community organizations to raise additional funds, why not step in and raise funds from other corporates, businesses and high net worth individuals or family offices yourself and on behalf of the organizations you fund.
5. Maintain funding commitments:
Even though your profitability may have declined due to the stock market’s response to the pandemic, and this probably means less funding and resources for social purpose organizations, please consider that your employees form part of the communities that now need more support.
Also, remember the financial markets will improve in the future, but we need to consider that some communities, organizations and your employees may not survive without your support.
For example: Community-based/humanitarian organizations will face increased demand for their services. Whilst self-quarantine is promoted, please consider essential services that now need to be delivered on site, at home to individuals and institutions like old age homes or clinics, schools, shelters and individuals who are already homebound such as the physically restricted or disabled people.
Consider any assets, wherever you may have spare capacity, like empty warehouses that can be turned into relief or information and support centres. Donate consumables such as food, paper, printers, copiers, etc.
6. Increase funding:
Help social purpose and community-based organizations prepare, collaborate and coordinate.
For example: Play a facilitation role by bringing all the stakeholders together that can focus on specific issues. For example – mobilize those organizations focused on food delivery. With schools closing, many children will no longer have access to daily meals.
With restricted movement and reduced income, many people will no longer have the means to buy food and support extended families. Consider supporting new groups and new causes like public information campaigns aimed at hard-to-reach communities in a multitude of languages. Consider contributing to enabling and increasing the footprint of organizations.
There are many communities that may not be informed or prepared to deal with the pandemic that will require a combination of a multitude of support services.
7. Increase the number of causes you support:
You may currently restrict your funding to specific causes or organizations or development portfolios.
For example: If you are already funding education, considering that schools will be closed, extend the reach of your current programmes by funding organizations that are working to deliver educational support, classes and teaching via technology.
The reason why you fund education in the first place is to move the needle on poverty – so we cannot afford to wait out what may potentially happen in the future, this will also allow you to innovate faster, explore/pilot new approaches, and to scale and benefit your own initiatives in the future. It is in times of crises we learn, so don’t waste this valuable opportunity to learn and experiment.
8. Use all the assets at your disposal:
Move beyond finance. Use your influence, production and logistics, and technology. Raise your voice and reach out your hand.
For example: Remember with travel restrictions, international aid organizations such as the Red Cross, United Nations, emergency/disaster organizations, etc. will not be able to deliver additional support. Therefore, it is critical to enable and capacitate existing and local structures. Assess all your partners and identify what they may need.
This assessment could also serve to identify specific capacity strengths/weaknesses and needs of individual organizations in serving their communities as well as the broader assets and gaps across/within a specific geographic location. Support relationship building between organizations, encourage and fund new partnerships that will be critical in the coming months. Help organizations with their communication efforts.
For example, many communities may not be connected to social media and therefore be excluded from existing (government) communications efforts. This may in turn hamper disaster preparedness, relief and recovery efforts.
9. Show your commitment and compassion:
The ways in which companies treat their workers in times of need present a real test of corporate values and purpose.
How companies respond when employees cannot come to work due to mandated office closures, required self-quarantine, or school closures and how companies respond to non-core operations based on reduced functionality will be a true test of their commitment and compassion.
For example: Also consider the small enterprises that are part of your supply chain. Remember, once all is back to normal, you will require their services again. Pay them on time, buy local and make them part of your community support efforts. Use them to build a bridge between your own efforts and those efforts of the organizations you support.
10. Contribute to global efforts:
This is a global pandemic. Whilst it is critically important to focus on local efforts, also consider that many companies operate globally. In this regard, there will be even more expectations from several stakeholders to support local/regional communities and organizations.
Consider creating your own funds, or supporting and contributing to existing global fund-raising opportunities. In addition, develop a global strategy and coordinate efforts across all your operations.
For example: A multinational may choose to coordinate efforts through global/regional/continental organizations (such as Gift of the Givers) and provide collective/integrated support to ensure the greatest impact overall.
In conclusion, whatever strategy you choose, I thank you for your efforts. It is at times like these that we will need to stand together.
Nelson Mandela said: “Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom. Of course, the task will not be easy. But not to do this would be a crime against humanity, against which I ask all humanity now to rise up.”
If you need any help or assistance to prepare your organization or your partners, please do not hesitate to reach out. We will do our best to support and assist you in your efforts. We too are also committed to ensure the future resilience of our communities and our continent. We are humanity and we are here to serve.
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