23 Jul Shaking Up Corporate Activations in the COVID-19 Era
The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing companies and nonprofit organizations to rethink how they approach disaster recovery and resilient response, while inspiring innovative and creative solutions to tackle a global health crisis on an unprecedented scale.
In the face of an invisible enemy that threatens everyone on the planet, partnerships and collaboration among all sectors will be vital to meeting the unique and urgent needs of impacted communities all around the world.
That was the key takeaway from a virtual session on “Ongoing COVID-19 Response: Marathon Activation for Corporates and Nonprofits,” hosted online by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation as part of the 9th Annual Building Resilience Through Private-Public Partnerships Conference last week.
On the panel, Jim Alvey, Good360’s Vice President of Disaster Recovery and Philanthropy, joined Christy Danzy, corporate community relations manager at Coca-Cola Bottling Co. UNITED; Brad J. Kieserman, vice president, disaster operations and logistics, Disaster Cycle Services at American Red Cross; and Asha Varghese, president at the Caterpillar Foundation. The conversation was moderated by Myra Sky, cause marketing manager and on-air personality at 11Alive News NBC Atlanta.
As its name suggests, the annual conference seeks to help organizations across the private and public sectors to develop partnerships and best practices that support building stronger, more resilient communities. Good360 has been a key contributor to the conference for a number of years.
But this year is unlike any other year. To confront the many health, economic and social challenges sparked by the coronavirus crisis, companies and nonprofits have needed to be especially nimble and creative. The word “pivot” came up a number of times during the panel discussion.
Good360 has seen firsthand the need to develop new partnerships and be flexible as it responds to the needs of its nonprofit network. In the early days of the pandemic, we saw the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) in hotspots abroad and tried to meet those needs by working with our international partners such as The UPS Foundation.
But as the supply of PPE faced a critical shortage and the economic impact of the crisis grew worse by the day in the U.S., we turned our attention to providing basic goods that would help our nonprofit partners serve families in quarantine. As unemployment reached Great Depression-era levels, the demand for donations of personal hygiene products, clothing, cleaning supplies, bedding and home goods has grown exponentially.
“Since March, we’ve been distributing massive volumes of basic goods to those impacted by COVID-19,” Alvey said during the panel discussion. “In fact, today, we’re announcing that we hit a milestone of $125 million worth of donated product distributed since March. That’s a lot of product, which tells you two things: One: there’s a lot of need. The second thing is that the partnerships and collaborations that we have from donor companies and nonprofits are working.
“This has been the busiest six months in Good360’s history,” Alvey added.
The coronavirus has also inspired us to come up with creative initiatives to address challenges that would have been unimaginable just months ago, such as millions of families needing to shelter in place and virtually all schools going empty.
For example, we worked with the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation to distribute 2 million toys and games to families in quarantine, although the program usually only operates during the holiday season. We are also partnering with Clean the World on a program that allows corporate volunteers to build hygiene kits at home, which has not been an option before.
In another example of thinking nimbly through the crisis, we partnered with the IRONMAN Foundation and Framebridge, the online framing service, to turn 50,000 unused IRONMAN event t-shirts into 500,000 non-sterile face masks while also supporting the production of 100,000 acrylic face shields.
“The pandemic forced us to look beyond our typical partnerships [and] look outside the box,” Alvey said.
For other organizations, being nimble has meant rethinking how they allocate monetary and in-kind donations during this time. Coca-Cola UNITED, which represents dozens of bottlers in six southern U.S. states, ramped up its donations of nutritional beverages and other support to groups directly helping COVID-impacted communities while it pulled back contributions elsewhere.
“We wanted to turn all of our attention towards any organization in our six-state footprint who were on the frontlines for helping with COVID support, relief and initiatives,” said Christy Danzy.
Brad Kierserman at the American Red Cross cautioned that the “worst has yet to come” in terms of the crisis, and companies need to prepare for COVID response during what could be a very busy hurricane and wildfire season.
“We’re going to see a Category 3 or 4 hurricane make landfall somewhere in the continental U.S. and that’s going to happen in a state where COVID infections are at critical levels and hospitals are already full,” he said.
(Read our blog post about why hurricane season is going to look very different this year with the pandemic.)
Echoing the theme of the talk, Asha Varghese noted that the crisis isn’t likely to be over anytime soon, so corporations need to think of this as a marathon, not a sprint.
“There’s a component of immediate response but also not losing sight of what that long term response should look like,” she said. “How do we pivot ourselves to be able to take the lessons learned from what’s happening right now and really strategically shift in how we’re going to be giving in the future?”
Varghese added that a key challenge for companies and nonprofits will be to “take a global pandemic and be able to localize it,” so that resilience is built at the grassroots level, community by community.
Alvey emphasized that companies should look to lean into their core competencies and brand assets as they decide how to help impacted populations. For example, Good360 partnered with Tempur-Sealy to provide healthcare facilities with new mattresses so nurses and doctors wouldn’t need to sleep on cots. It was an excellent way to leverage the company’s existing assets to help first responders on the frontlines.
“Instead of being transactional,” Alvey said, “be transformative.”
To watch a full replay of the panel discussion, go here.