CSR + COVID-19: Communicating Charity Donations

Several months into the COVID-19 crisis and that feeling of unity remains. We are a nation who has fallen back in love with the NHS.

Clapping on doorsteps every Thursday, we make sure to check whether loved ones have a supermarket delivery and we introduce ourselves over fences to elderly neighbours who may need help. We openly recognise our personal social responsibility.

But what about our corporate social responsibility? C.S.R. Three letters which are very much on the radar of executive boards as they seek to link their company’s own CSR policy with the unrelenting demands for aid in the third sector.

An infinite number of causes need support at this unprecedented time. From food banks and homeless shelters to services for the elderly and mental health.  As the crisis continues, the demand on non-profit organisations grow and their need for funding increases. Charities are themselves vulnerable with the Government’s £750million rescue package, announced in April, unable to save them all.

The repeated call to action from the third sector community is for businesses that can, to provide support. And so many are, not just through monetary donations, but also by volunteering their time or products.  In the financial sector we have seen banks, insurers, asset managers all give generously. As Jes Staley, Barclays Group CEO explained when launching the Barclays Foundation – which will provide a COVID-19 Community Aid Package of £100 million to charities supporting people impacted by the pandemic – “We want to do more to back the communities in which we live and work, and to provide help to those who have been hardest hit by the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic”.

The question for corporate organisations who have responded to COVID-19 by donating funds to charitable causes, is whether to promote their actions in the press.

A few considerations to address:


1. Get your house in order


Consider all stakeholders, the impact your company’s charitable donation will have on them and the questions that will likely be asked. The employee who has been furloughed, or the investor who did not receive their expected dividend, may show some reticence about a substantial donation made to charity.


This is also the time to consider how the media may respond to a donation in light of the organisation’s actions to date – make sure you develop robust media Q&As. Unlike the glowing publicity brought to an individual’s personal contribution to COVID-19 relief efforts, such as national hero, and soon to be knighted, Captain Tom Moore, corporates face a different type of media scrutiny thanks to journalistic cynicism on their actions.


2. Learn from the lessons of competitors


Audit your competitors to check their strategy as that will shape how your company’s response will be received by media. Investigate whether those businesses in your industry of a similar size are gifting similar sized donations.  Check which journalists covered the news and the tone of their piece. Consider what you can do to address any negative sentiments before making an announcement.


3. Always have a call to action


To remove the ‘self-promotion’ element of the communication and maximise coverage potential, always ensure there is a call to action behind the announcement. Is it about raising awareness of the charity partner or a call for donations? Be clear with your spokespeople (who should go through virtual media coaching) that while the company’s own messaging is important, it is crucial to position your activity as building on said ‘call to action’.


4. Co-ordinate communication with the charity


Naturally the media are more receptive to ‘feel good’ news coming from the benefactor than the corporate. To align with this, co-ordinate all communication collateral with your chosen charity from the outset. Aside from editorial content or quotes, include their branding and ensure any announcement is jointly timed both for traditional and social media. The charity is able to add the emotive angle and will bring to life the output of the donation through authentic case studies.


5. Tailor your targets


As with all news, charitable donations should not be a blanket press release.  It is important, as ever, to personalise your target media contact list and consider whether a regional media route might be more appropriate, given they can cover the local impact. Bear in mind that over the past few months, press have been inundated with information on corporate companies making charitable donations.



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