Employers, Workers Put Money Where Mouth Is for Harvey Relief

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By Jaclyn Diaz

Major companies and their employees are digging into their pockets to support victims of Hurricane Harvey, which has caused damages expected to surpass $30 billion.

Google, Bank of America, and Starbucks are among the companies using employee match programs and separate corporate donations to send millions toward the ravaged locals in Texas.

Corporate donations are commonplace during times of natural disasters, Carmen Perez, with CECP, told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 29. In fact, businesses plan for the next disaster or crisis, she said. CECP is a nonprofit consulting group for major companies focused on charitable investments.

“It’s something companies build into their strategies,” she said. Many businesses have a discretionary fund to donate to a charity in the event of a natural disaster.

Companies With a Stake Donate More

Employees want a way to contribute to their communities and have come to expect an employer to have a matching gift program, Perez, CECP’s director of data insights, said. In many cases, there’s a system in place if employees want to react quickly and when demand is high.

Nine out of 10 companies offered at least one matching-gift program in 2016, and seven out of 10 companies offered at least two matching-gift programs in 2016, according to CECP’s review of the charitable activities of 196 Fortune 500 companies.

Harvey inspired the Southern Co., a gas and electric corporation, to establish a matching program for employees and retirees, Southern announced Aug. 28.

Perez has found businesses tend to donate toward causes to which they are directly related. The health-care industry is more involved in the health and well-being of the public during natural disasters, so companies in that sector tend to give more in situations like Harvey, she said.

Health-care companies on average give the highest percentage toward disaster relief, which made up nearly 8 percent of their total charitable giving in 2016, Perez said. When looking at the actions of 183 companies, they allocated an average of 2 percent of their total charitable funds toward disaster relief.

Google, Bank of America Donations Top $1M

With a combination of corporate foundation donations and employee match programs, Harvey relief funds were well into the tens of millions of dollars by Aug. 29 with much of that going toward the American Red Cross.

Bank of America employees have an option to donate to various charities through the company’s matching gift program, which maxes out at $5,000 per employee annually, Britney Sheehan, a bank spokeswoman, told Bloomberg BNA.

Since Harvey hit, employees have been looking for ways to donate, she said. And they’ve already stepped up to the challenge ahead.

Bank of America will match employee pledges of $1 or more made toward Harvey disaster relief until Sept. 30. The usual match minimum is $25. By the afternoon of Aug. 29, Bank of America employees contributed nearly $100,000 in donations to Harvey disaster relief, which will be doubled.

This is in addition to the $1 million already pledged by the Bank of America Charitable Foundation. Initially, $250,000 will go toward the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund for immediate shelter needs. The rest will be allocated as more information about long-term recovery needs is released.

Google announced Aug. 27 it would provide a $250,000 grant to the American Red Cross and match Google employee donations up to $250,000. Most of the money will go toward the American Red Cross, Save the Children, Habitat for Humanity, and Team Rubicon.

Google said on Aug. 29 it has pledged to donate $2 million. It also announced a campaign to match the public’s donations up to $1 million.

Starbucks is establishing a channel for customers to donate toward recovery. Customers have been able to donate to the Red Cross since Aug. 27. Employees who make a personal donation to relief efforts can request matching funds through the company’s Partner Match program.

Employees Get Help, Too

Bank of America has 5,700 employees in Texas directly affected by the storm, Sheehan told Bloomberg BNA.

In addition to donating to the general public in Texas, the company is reminding employees of the support services available to them.

Services include backup child and dependent care, an employee assistance line with confidential 24-hour counseling, and an Employee Relief Fund.

The fund allows employees to apply for cash grants of up to $2,500 following natural disasters or emergency hardships. That’s been in place since 2014. There is no cap on the number of grants available to them.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jaclyn Diaz in Washington at jDiaz@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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