Blog Post

Responding to Disasters: Your Corporate Giving Playbook

April 7, 2023
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As the frequency and intensity of natural disasters and wide-scale emergencies increase, and as government resources are stretched thin, communities are turning more often to companies to assist in immediate relief and long-term recovery efforts. This toolkit provides your company with do's and don'ts of how best to respond, as well as additional resources around how best to engage employees in responding to a disaster.

If you're looking for a list of agencies who respond to disasters, read our blog Disaster Relief Response: Nonprofit Organizations.

Give Better: A Playbook for Effective Giving in a Disaster

Companies can play an important, valuable role in different phases of disasters - from preparedness to immediate response to longer-term recovery. Companies bring a lot to a disaster context; in addition to critical funding, they can leverage a workforce with specific skills, innovative resources, and cutting-edge technology that can help prepare communities to be more resilient and also save communities from a downward spiral post-disaster.

But HOW companies show up and partner with communities before, during, and after a disaster is critical. Many companies end up making mistakes that can reduce the effectiveness of their support - and sometimes cause more harm than good to those facing disaster.

"Business as usual" would be simply cutting a big check to one or two big-name disaster response charities, selected by company leaders. But there are so many other ways to have an impact and diversify that impact. For instance, companies can empower their employees to show up at the moment and donate in a way that makes them feel most connected to what’s going on, whether it’s to a local animal shelter rescuing abandoned animals, a homeless shelter helping an influx of those displaced, or a food bank distributing to families in need.

In this toolkit, Groundswell's team shares what companies should - and shouldn't - do, when it comes to sending resources to support when disaster strikes.

Responding to Disasters: Facts and Data

  • 50% percentage of donations arrive within the first two weeks of major disasters, and the rest come over the next six weeks, leaving longer-term work under-funded
  • $3.6 billion donated in disaster-related funding from corporate giving programs in 2020
  • $1 invested, $6 saved — it is estimated that every $1 invested in disaster preparedness can save $6 when a disaster hits

Demystifying the Phases of Disasters

Disasters are complex. Our eyes are drawn to images of the destruction left in a storm’s path or after the earth stops shaking - but the true effects of disasters and the lives impacted often go far beyond what makes news headlines. The majority of donations in a disaster strongly correlate with the moments of immediate relief - when lives are at risk, critical infrastructure is damaged, and the media is laser-focused on it.

Disasters should be viewed on a longer continuum, to not only include the immediate response and relief, but also longer-term recovery (rebuilding homes, roads, and livelihoods), as well as critical mitigation and preparedness activities - such as hardening structures, improving evacuation and communications protocols, etc - to help prevent future devastation.

It’s important to consider these different phases when determining how and when to provide support for a disaster. Donations before, during, and after disasters can be game-changing, but figuring out the right, the most impactful approach isn’t always easy.

In the following pages, we offer tips to help you make the right choices not only when disaster strikes but also how you consider support in the longer term.

Do’s and Don'ts of Corporate Disaster Philanthropy

Here are some tips from the team at Groundswell, leveraging years of experience in the disaster relief space:

#1: Don't send stuff, send money

Sending clothes or supplies (also known as “in-kind” donations), while well-intended, can clog already complex supply and logistics operations. And they often don’t get to those most in need, or worse - are entirely inappropriate for the context.

People don’t need paper towels thrown at them when they don’t have drinking water. And they don’t need winter coats if they live in a tropical climate. Sending hundreds of pounds of frozen chicken to a disaster zone when there’s no way to keep it frozen, much less transport it to those needing food, can end up being more trouble than help.

The disaster response organizations on the ground have the best understanding of what supplies are needed and where to deploy them - and the best way to support those organizations is through cash donations.

#2: Sometimes it's ok to send stuff, here's how

In some instances, in-kind donations CAN be very effective in an emergency, but they need to be tightly coordinated with nonprofits. In-kind donations are also most helpful if they can have an impact at scale and fill a critical gap; in other words, it is important that these products fill a need that others on the ground cannot fill.

Examples include: providing access to large machinery to clear roads, technicians to restore power and communications infrastructure, aircraft to send relief workers to the frontlines, and free advertising to increase awareness of what’s happening and drive cash donations.

#3: Move quickly

In many emergency situations, early donations are critical for organizations responding on the ground - enabling emergency teams to mobilize and purchase life-saving supplies.

You can launch a gift or match program for your employees in a matter of minutes using the Groundswell platform, immediately allowing your company, via your entire employee base, to send support to disaster relief organizations on the ground.

In a disaster, one large corporate check to a single organization, while impactful for that organization, risks deprioritizing what your employees care most about. Empower all of your employees to move quickly and meet the moment using Groundswell.

#4: Leverage expert vetting

You may want to move quickly, but you also want to protect against fraud and ensure the donations go to worthy recipients. You can move fast knowing that Groundswell handles all the vetting - researching and evaluating the organizations responding to disasters to give you the peace of mind that your donation is going to be well used.

Groundswell is also launching a partnership with GlobalGiving to provide access to thousands of rigorously-vetted international nonprofits responding to disasters that hit beyond U.S. borders.

#5: Think holistically (and empower your employees to respond to disasters holistically)

Responding to a disaster includes far more than repairing homes and infrastructure, or providing shelter and food to those displaced.

Often those who are already vulnerable before disaster strikes (homeless populations, women confronting domestic violence, low-income communities, refugees) are disproportionately impacted by natural disasters, especially if they don’t have immediate access to emergency services or social safety nets. Below are a few examples.


Domestic Violence

  • Disasters also exacerbate violence against women. Studies have shown that in the aftermath of large-scale disasters, intimate partner violence increases. The percentage of women reporting violence increased from 33.6% to 45.2% following Hurricane Katrina.

Mental Health

  • Another less visible impact of a disaster is mental health, especially for those who have previously suffered from mental illness. Overwhelming evidence suggests that the stress of living through a disaster can exacerbate prior challenges or create new ones. Many of the mental health challenges that emerge after a disaster present themselves about 18 months later, which is often when most funding support ends.

#6: Support longer-term recovery needs and future resilience

While it is important to support disaster relief nonprofits that are working on the frontlines to quickly provide immediate relief for impacted communities, it is also important to be mindful of the longer-term recovery needs that emerge weeks and even months after a disaster, when most donations dry up. Most donations are made within the first few weeks of a disaster, and then when attention wanes, so does the funding.


  • Yes, we are motivated to provide relief at the moment to those in need of immediate lifesaving food, water, and shelter. And that support is important for organizations on the ground. But equally critical is the long-term recovery work, like repairing homes, roads, and businesses, which requires immense resources. For example, there are reports that the recovery from Hurricane Ian in September 2022 could be the costliest in history for the state of Florida. Moreover, when the media’s attention goes elsewhere, so do donations. So a donation to support longer-term recovery can have an immense impact.

Calculating the Value of Preparedness & Resilience

  • Equally important is investing in disaster preparedness - sometimes known as resilience - that helps communities be better prepared to withstand the impacts of the next natural disaster. This can mean fortifying structures, and also investing in systems for evacuation and communication in a disaster. Preparedness is historically underfunded, but it’s where every dollar can have a huge impact. It is estimated that every $1 invested in preparedness and disaster mitigation can save $6 when a disaster hits. It is also an opportunity to test more innovative prevention and mitigation approaches that governments are less willing to invest in.

Disaster Response: Engage Your Employees

Acknowledge the Crisis

There will likely be an awareness of the disaster -- depending the scale and amount of media attention. But communicating early to your employees via a company-wide email or blog post can help display empathy with those impacted and signal a commitment to step up and support those impacted by the crisis.

Call to Action

Share details of a specific gift or match program for the disaster. This communication can highlight specific nonprofits that your company wants to support, or point employees to other featured nonprofits found on the Groundswell app dashboard specifically focused on responding to the disaster. The company may be offering a special, time-sensitive match as a way to encourage employees to participate.

Report Results

Share the results of the ways that your company came together - collectively - to support communities impacted by the disaster. This might include how many employees participated/donated, the number and amount of donations, the range of nonprofits that received support, etc.

If there is a time-sensitive match that expires at the end of a set time frame, remind employees to log into their Groundswell account to contribute and donate.

Emergency Giving Program: Gifting and Matching

  • Keep a portion of your annual budget in reserve so that you can match and/or gift employees to have a greater impact in response to the emergency. You can set up an ad hoc program with Groundswell in a matter of minutes, and meet the moment with urgency and intention.
  • Consider launching a combined Gift and Match program - that empowers employees to donate at the moment, while also incentivizing them to contribute their own funds.
  • Being immediately responsive and pointing your employees to vetted nonprofits to donate to shows that you are responsive as a company and giving your employees the agency to take action.

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Unlocking Philanthropy: A Ready-to-Use Corporate Giving Policy for Modern Businesses

Sample Corporate Giving Policy You Can Use Today

In today’s socially conscious environment, more companies than ever are recognizing the value of corporate philanthropy. Not only can a robust giving policy boost a brand’s image and reputation, but it can also play a pivotal role in community development and global betterment. If your company is considering the establishment of a formal corporate giving policy or refining its existing strategy, this sample policy might be the perfect starting point for you.

Download Sample Policy

Pillars of a Strong Corporate Giving Policy

Corporate giving programs range from employer donation matching programs to full blown corporate social responsibility programs with grantmaking and volunteerism.  Many companies find somewhere in the middle that aligns with their size, budget, geographic presence and most importantly company values and commitment to diversity and inclusion. But what truly makes a corporate giving policy stand out? Let’s delve into the key features, from donation matching to the strategic use of platforms like Groundswell.

1. Donation Matching: Doubling the Impact

One of the most effective tools in a giving policy is donation matching. This is where companies match employee donations to eligible non-profits, effectively doubling the contribution. Such programs not only amplify the impact but also motivate employees to participate, knowing their chosen cause will receive twice the support.

2. Charitable Stipends: Encouraging Employee Choice

Charitable stipends are allowances given to employees to donate to a non-profit of their choice. This not only encourages a culture of giving but also empowers employees to support causes they’re passionate about. The stipends can be a fixed amount annually or can vary based on the employee’s role or tenure.

3. Dollars for Doers: Volunteering Translated to Contributions

“Dollars for Doers” programs convert volunteer hours into monetary donations. When employees volunteer their time for a cause, the company makes a donation equivalent to the hours spent. This fosters a culture of hands-on involvement and ensures that both time and money are being donated to valuable initiatives.

4. Corporate Grants: Sowing Seeds for Bigger Change

Beyond individual employee contributions, companies can set aside a dedicated fund for corporate grants. These grants can be given to non-profits, research initiatives, or community projects that align with the company’s CSR objectives. Such grants can lead to substantial, long-term changes and foster strong partnerships with community leaders and organizations.

Why Choose Groundswell for Your Giving Initiatives?

Incorporating these elements into a giving policy requires streamlined management, transparency, and ease of execution. This is where platforms like Groundswell come into the picture.

Groundswell offers an efficient and affordable solution for companies aiming to elevate their philanthropic endeavors. Here’s why it’s the ideal choice:

  • User-Friendly Interface: Groundswell’s platform is designed for both companies and employees, ensuring smooth navigation and straightforward donation processes.
  • Versatility: Whether it’s donation matching, handling charitable stipends, or managing corporate grants, Groundswell offers solutions tailored to each company’s unique needs.
  • Cost-Effective: Groundswell provides a comprehensive suite of tools at competitive prices, ensuring that more of your money goes towards the cause rather than platform fees.
  • Transparency: Track donations, monitor employee involvement, and generate detailed reports to measure the impact—all in one place.

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An effective corporate giving policy is a blend of structure, employee engagement, and impactful contributions. By incorporating elements like donation matching, charitable stipends, “Dollars for Doers,” and corporate grants, businesses can create a ripple effect of positive change. And with platforms like Groundswell, executing these initiatives becomes not just feasible but also highly efficient and cost-effective.

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5 Tips to Boost Engagement & Impact on Giving Tuesday

Leverage GivingTuesday to boost generosity

Every November, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving is known as GivingTuesday, which often serves as the unofficial start of end-of-year giving campaigns. This comes on the heels of holiday shopping deals on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. It is a worldwide phenomenon, inspiring millions to lean into the end-of-year holiday spirit with generosity and compassion. For many charities, GivingTuesday has become their biggest day for donations – and can help resource their ability to have an even greater impact in the year ahead.

For companies, GivingTuesday and the end-of-year giving season offers an opportunity to double down on their commitment to social responsibility, strengthen relationships with employees, and boost their impact in the community and broader world.

At Groundswell, we partner with companies all across the country to design and launch GivingTuesday campaigns – leveraging our easy-to-use platform that makes it easy for employees to participate and send donations to the causes and charities that they care most about. Below are some best practices to boost engagement and inspire generosity during the giving season.

1. Make Giving Easy:

A lot of giving platforms out there make it incredibly hard to donate. Some don’t have all 1.5 million IRS-approved charities listed. Others require employees to navigate through a web of intranet or sharepoint sites to find the giving program landing page. And others require that HR is notified of any donations an employee wants to make. At Groundswell – we are committed to removing all of the friction, and ensuring that employees can find charities easily, through a platform that is accessible from the palm of their hand, so they can give whenever they want to.

2. Launch a GivingTuesday Match Campaign:

Through Groundswell you can customize and launch a special GivingTuesday match campaign in a matter of minutes. Simply pick the nonprofits to include in the special campaign, select the start and end-date for the campaign, and then determine the match – 2x, 3x – along with any overall budget limits, then you’re done!

3. Boost engagement by involving ERGs:

Share nonprofit recommendations from Employee Resource Groups to provide inspiration around causes and nonprofits that matter to your employees. You can feature these nonprofits on dedicated ERG Corporate Spotlights and Campaigns that will be visible to all employees on their Groundswell dashboard.

4. Surprise (and Delight) Employees With A Gift to Give:

Consider sending a surprise “gift to give” to reward those already participating in your giving program (and to incentivize others to enroll). These gifts might be used to further maximize impact through the existing campaign, or to donate to other nonprofits your employees care about. Groundswell’s custom gift feature allows companies to easily schedule and send gifts with little to no administrative burden.

5. Level up with Volunteer Matching:

Groundswell’s Volunteer Matching program – sometimes known as Dollars for Doers – recognizes that some employees may not have funds to contribute, but have time – and rewards them in the same way. It’s an inclusive approach that invites everyone to participate in GivingTuesday, even those who may not be able to donate their own funds.

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12 Employee Benefits Survey Questions Modern Companies Should Ask

In today's business environment, having the right and highest performing talent is more critical than ever. With benefits packages playing a vital role in these decisions, how can companies truly gauge their effectiveness? By initiating regular employee benefits surveys.

Scroll down for a free survey template below.

Let's dive in to the importance of asking the following questions.

Is our workforce satisfied with the current employee benefits package?

Gaining insights from "how satisfied are you with our company’s benefits package?" can offer companies a quick pulse on the effectiveness of their benefits. A dip in satisfaction might signal a need for re-evaluation, especially if you're looking to maximize your budget.

How comprehensive are the employee benefits we offer?

Do employees feel that the organization covers a wide range of their needs? Asking, "do you feel our benefits package is comprehensive in its offering?" can shed light on any potential gaps in coverage.

Are we showing true commitment to Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion through our benefits?

Are the company's efforts in promoting DE&I resonating? This can be gauged by asking if the benefits genuinely support diversity and inclusion. If they aren't, here's an opportunity to collect ideas directly from your employees.

Read more about how to make sure your giving program is equitable and inclusive.

Do our benefits reflect our company culture and values?

The question, "do you feel our benefits package supports our cultural values?" will highlight any potential discrepancies in practicing what you're preaching.

Did you know? Two-thirds of employees say it’s important for a company to align to their values.

Are we catering to the needs of a remote or multi-location workforce?

With remote work on the rise, is the company adapting its benefits accordingly? It's essential to find out if employees feel supported, regardless of their work setting.

Would employees recommend the company based on our benefits?

This is an easy one to skip, but it's a great question to ask. See how influential your benefits package is for employee referrals. Determining if employees would advocate for the company based on its benefits can be a key metric for recruitment.

How do specific benefit categories fare?

By querying satisfaction levels across various benefits – physical health, social impact, mental health, financial health, and fringe benefits – can companies discern which areas are thriving and which need enhancement?

What additional benefits do employees desire?

Is there a particular benefit that could make a difference in employee satisfaction and retention? Discovering this can be as straightforward as asking, "if you could choose one benefit not currently offered, what would it be?"

If your workforce desires a more meaningful benefit, see why decentralizing your corporate philanthropy strategy can achieve greater impact at scale.

How often should I send an employee survey about our benefits?

While every business has their own set of unique needs, conducing a quarterly employee survey at minimum can help you get a pulse check.

There will be some natural and unplanned peaks in valleys throughout the year that can drastically affect employee morale and company culture. By proactively seeking feedback through surveys, companies can foster a culture of continuous improvement, ensuring they remain at the forefront of employee satisfaction.

What are some affordable benefit options we can provide employees?

Corporate matching or giving programs can be a low-cost addition to your benefit offering that supports your employees’ unique passions and perspectives through charitable giving and boosts your company’s commitment to social impact.  Groundswell offers a comprehensive solution with a simple implementation and nearly zero administration burden.

[Free Template] Employee Benefits Survey Questions

  1. How satisfied are you with our company’s benefits package?
  2. Do you feel our benefits package is comprehensive in its offering?
  3. Do you feel our benefits package supports our cultural values?
  4. Do you feel our benefits package supports our commitment to Diversity & Inclusion?
  5. Do you feel our benefits package supports our remote or multi-location workforce?
  6. How likely are you to recommend applying based on our benefits package?
  7. How satisfied are you with our physical health benefits (i.e. health care, sick leave, etc)?
  8. How satisfied are you with our social impact benefits (i.e. corporate matching, volunteering, etc)?
  9. How satisfied are you with our mental health benefits (i.e. vacation time, EAP, etc)?
  10. How satisfied are you with our financial health benefits? (i.e. retirement, student loan assistance, etc)
  11. How satisfied are you with our fringe benefits and perks? (i.e. fitness subsidies, stipends, etc)
  12. If you could choose one benefit not currently offered, what would it be?
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