These are unprecedented times, but the corporate sector—with baked-in business interruption and contingency plans—is more agile than most in responding to emergencies, and so are their foundations. Candid reported that as of early March, corporate givers were responsible for a full 83 percent of current pledges, and 90 percent of dollar value.
The financial services industry is by nature on the front lines of any response, providing critical access to capital that keeps everything from personal finances to markets rolling. They are also among the first responders in terms of philanthropy. The sector’s initial commitments are summarized below based on public reporting through the end of March.
A number of trends emerged across the commitments. Charity began at home for a majority of corporations, which are focusing their philanthropic response in hometowns and employee centers, at least in these early days. That said, multinationals didn’t hesitate to fund globally, even back in January, with gifts supporting the outbreak in China.
Well-versed in responding to disasters, institutions like BlackRock and U.S. Bank held back some of their fire to address future needs. And several are being sensitive to the swiftly changing priorities of nonprofits, converting planned giving to general operating support and fast-tracking grants.
Top fund recipients include the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund created by the United Nations Foundation, Swiss Philanthropy Foundation and World Health Organization, and the CDC Foundation’s Emergency Response Fund. Give2Asia is a primary partner for international giving.
Supporting basic needs at a time like this is unsurprising, but one category emerged as the clear priority: More than half of the responses below addressed hunger and food insecurity.
These commitments are substantial, and poised to grow as needs emerge and priorities shift. Mike Corbat, Citi’s CEO, described Citi’s funding as “just the first step” in tackling “an unprecedented situation” that demands a “thoughtful and decisive response” from its businesses and philanthropy.
Here’s how the industry and its foundations are responding to the challenge:
American Express Foundation
The American Express Foundation is thinking globally. It was an early funder in China, donating $145,000 to the Hubei Red Cross Foundation through Give2Asia. Recently, it announced an additional $2 million in grants to organizations around the globe that are fighting the epidemic. That includes $1 million to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund launched by the United Nations Foundation, Swiss Philanthropy Foundation and World Health Organization, a half-million to the CDC Foundation’s Emergency Response Fund, and $250,000 each to the International Medical Corps and Feeding America. Among other priorities, grants are expected to fund protective equipment for frontline healthcare workers, support the development of vaccines and research, and feed impacted members of its communities.
Bank of America
Sitting far and away at the top of the response leader board, Bank of America announced a $100 million commitment to supporting local communities as “the world faces unprecedented challenges from the coronavirus.” The majority of funds will be dispersed on the ground in local markets, addressing medical capacity, food insecurity and remote learning for homebound students—both now and in the months ahead. That includes longtime partner Khan Academy, which is helping students learn during school closures. In addition, BofA pledged to increase funding for a number of national and global organizations serving on the front lines.
Acknowledging a responsibility to help those hit hardest “cope and bounce back,” BlackRock committed a total of $50 million to COVID-19 relief efforts in two phases. Its $18 million in immediate funding supports food banks and community organizations that support frontline populations in the local, regional and global communities in which it operates. U.S. investments include $5 million to Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund, $2 million to local food banks where employees volunteer from New York to San Francisco, $2 million to the Robin Hood Relief Fund, and $1 million to Tipping Point Community’s COVID-19 Emergency Response campaign. European investments include $2.2 million to national food banks in Italy, Spain, France and Germany, $2 million to the National Emergencies Trust Coronavirus Appeal in the U.K., and $1.25 million to Doctors Without Borders. Globally, it invested $500,000 in the Global FoodBanking Network to met emerging needs in Asia and Latin America, building on the support it provided China’s Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital back in January. In the long term, BlackRock’s second phase will address the impact of financial hardships and social dislocation on the most vulnerable populations.
The Citi Foundation is addressing both local and global efforts, evenly splitting its total $15 million commitment among three partners. It committed $5 million to the WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund; $5 million toward U.S.-based No Kid Hungry alleviate childhood hunger; and $5 million to “country-specific” work in geographies that are severely impacted.
Comerica Bank and the Comerica Charitable Foundation
Dallas-based Comerica and its charitable foundation are investing a total of $4 million in community programming and small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Business support will primarily be deployed via Community Development Financial Institution programs designed to meet the needs of small and micro-businesses. The foundation is currently evaluating opportunities for community programming in the areas of food insecurity and healthcare for youth, seniors and other vulnerable populations—and accelerating $500,000 in planned giving to local United Ways in its markets.
Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation boosted its planned giving by $3 million to offset the coronavirus impact in the communities it serves. It also established two impact loan funds for existing customers: $2 million for families and individuals experiencing COVID-19-related hardship, and $5 million for struggling small businesses.
Fifth Third Bank
Fifth Third Bank pledged a total of $8.75 million to address the pandemic through the Fifth Third Foundation and Fifth Third Chicagoland Foundation. Funding includes $3.25 million for the immediate and long-term response to COVID-19 within its markets, which are primarily in the South and Mideast. It also pledged $5.5 million in recovery and resiliency grants to boost economic sustainability through its Strengthening our Communities Fund, which supports small businesses, affordable housing, home ownership and local economic development initiatives.
Goldman Sachs confirmed donating a total of 600,000 N95 facemasks procured “in the wake of previous epidemics.” Four hundred thousand were distributed to New York and New Jersey, and 50,000 to the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. It’s also working with hospitals in California and Utah, and other spots where needs are acute.
Acknowledging that global medical services are under enormous pressure, economies are at a standstill, and lives have been upended, HSBC is providing $25 million in contributions to support the international medical response, protect the vulnerable, and ensure global food security. Fifteen million of that was available immediately; the remaining $10 million is reserved for long-term investments in recovery. Of the available funds, $1.75 million is earmarked for relief efforts in Mainland China and India, with additional donations supporting longtime partnerships in Hong Kong and Asia. Two million is dedicated to global charities coordinating the international response; the remainder will be deployed to “key locations around the world where the greatest difference can be made on the ground.” HSBC feels its colleagues know their local markets best, and will turn to them on funding decisions.
JPMorgan Chase stepped up with a $50 million philanthropic commitment to address the immediate public health and long-term economic challenges posed by the pandemic globally. Its initial $15 million investment supports the hardest-hit people and communities, including $5 million for acute healthcare, food and humanitarian relief internationally; $2 million to support existing global nonprofit partners responding to the crisis; and $8 million to assist small businesses facing economic hardships in the U.S., China and Europe. The remaining $35 million will be deployed over time to help the most vulnerable communities and people recover and participate in future economic growth.
Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Lending Tree, the country’s largest online lending marketplace, helped launch the COVID-19 Response Fund established by the Foundation for the Carolinas and United Way of Central Carolinas with a $1 million lead gift. The City of Charlotte matched the grant with $1 million in public sector support, bringing the total to $2 million. The fund will meet the immediate basic needs of residents impacted by the virus and address needs as they evolve. As of March 30, it had already raised more than $13 million from other local donors.
Lincoln Financial Foundation
The Lincoln Financial Foundation’s COVID-19 response centers on food insecurity in the U.S. by increasing overall funding by $1 million for nearly 30 food banks, community pantries and soup kitchens across its footprint. Funding in places from Philadelphia to Fort Wayne and Omaha will help the organizations provide lunch for out-of-school students and vulnerable seniors.
On March 10, Mastercard joined the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Wellcome in committing up to $125 million in seed funding toward the response to the COVID-19 epidemic. Gates and Wellcome each contributed $50 million, with the balance coming from the Mastercard Impact Fund. Funds will be used to identify, assess, accelerate and scale treatments—and assure equitable access and availability in low-resource settings. The funders expect the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, a research fund designed to help identify and develop treatments, to play a “catalytic role” in treating patients with COVID-19, working in concert with WHO, the public and private sectors, and global regulatory and policy organizations.
Moody’s established a $1 million program to help global humanitarian aid organizations combat the coronavirus, and fund direct relief work in the communities in which it operates. Partners include the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, Team Rubicon, the NYC COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund, Direct Relief International in Latin America, Give2Asia in Asian-Pacific countries, and Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children to support vulnerable populations in the Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The support builds on its $50,000 in initial support for China, made through Give2Asia. The company also pledged to convert $450,000 in planned giving for its existing partners to unrestricted grants.
Morgan Stanley’s COVID-19 efforts will sustain its commitment to the well-being of children and build capacity for first-responder organizations. Back in February, it pledged a total of $1 million to address the impact of the initial outbreak in Wuhan—$500,000 to frontline charities and $500,000 to match employee contributions. In March, it pledged an additional $10 million in cash contributions. The first three grants include $2 million to Feeding America to sustain affiliate operations, and $2 million each to the CDC Foundation and WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
Prudential responded to the pandemic by pledging $1.5 million in funding for local businesses and community support domestically and internationally. U.S. support will focus on a number of locations where the company has a large business presence, including its headquarters city, Newark, New Jersey, and El Paso, Texas. Funds are aimed at supporting small businesses, families in need, and the nonprofit sector. Internationally, it’s supporting small businesses in Japan and providing financial support to UNICEF and the Fosun Foundation. It also redeployed its emergency preparedness supplies, donating 300 bottles of hand sanitizer and 153,000 face masks to frontline healthcare workers in New Jersey.
The Synchrony Foundation’s $5 million response to the epidemic centers on domestic food insecurity and local communities. Of that, $1.5 million will fund hunger relief organizations, including Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund, which helps food banks across the country support affected communities, and Meals on Wheels America, to ensure that older adults continue to receive nourishing meals at home. The remaining $3.5 million will support the long-term needs of hard-hit communities as the outbreak unfolds.
TD Bank and the TD Charitable Foundation made two donations totaling more than a half-million dollars to address the stressors the pandemic is placing on healthcare systems. First, it committed $250,000 to the National Association of Community Health Centers to support local frontline healthcare workers in at-risk communities across Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Washington, D.C., Florida and New Jersey. Funding is intended to lower the strains on community health systems by boosting local screening, testing, referrals and care, and addressing social supports like transportation, case management and the risks of social isolation. Ultimately, the investment is expected to increase hospital capacity for acute cases. Next, it allocated $300,000 for local social service organizations in its “Maine to Florida” footprint, specifically to address needs that arise as a result of the coronavirus.
Truist Cares, the foundation formed following the merger of BB&T and SunTrust banks, pledged $25 million in philanthropic support to meet immediate and long-term needs created by the pandemic. The Truist Charitable Fund, the company’s donor-advised fund, immediately donated $1 million apiece to the CDC Foundation’s Response Fund and Johns Hopkins Medicine to assist recovery efforts and deliver critical supplies. And the Truist Foundation immediately donated $3 million to local United Way agencies in its markets. The balance will be directed to its community partners’ work in five key areas: providing broadband services and tech solutions that help students learn from home; providing food and essential services to the elderly; addressing small business disruptions; ensuring that low-income children have access to food and educational opportunities while schools are closed and jobs are at risk; and supporting hourly workers impacted by shuttered stadium events. It also committed $2 million to help small businesses meet operating capital shortfalls through two CDFIs, LiftFund and Natural Capital Investment Fund, in grants of between $5,000 and $25,000.
UBS Optimus Foundation
Naming the capacity of under-resourced health systems its top concern, the philanthropic arm of UBS AG donated more than $500,000 to the disaster relief and global health organization Americares to aid its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Funds will support frontline healthcare workers globally and in the U.S., ensuring they have the personal protective equipment (PPE) and training they need to stay in the fight. It will also match 20 percent of client and employee donations to the organization.
Saying it does not have all the answers and that it wants to do things right, U.S. Bank stepped up quickly and surely, committing $30 million for both immediate and long-term fallout from COVID-19. By the end of March, it promised to put $4 million in the hands of three key partners: LISC, to provide solutions for small businesses; Operation Hope, to provide financial education coaching; and the United Way, to build capacity for its 211 referral helpline, which is already experiencing a 300 percent increase in calls. By year’s end, it will provide an additional $25 million to long-term recovery efforts. That includes trusting its NPO partners to deploy funding where it’s needed most by converting the balance of its Community Possible program budget to general operating grants. It’s supporting its “most valuable resource”—its employees—by doubling the match on their gifts. It also committed to driving “even greater social impact” by bringing the company’s full resources to bear on removing barriers and reaching the most underserved.
Another funder staying close to home is San Antonio-based USAA, which committed a total of $1 million to local non-profits “responding to and managing through” the impacts of COVID-19, including the San Antonio Food Bank, South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, Meals on Wheels, Haven for Hope and United Way of San Antonio. It will also match employee donations of up to $500 to selected non-profits in each of its physical offices.
The Wells Fargo Foundation announced a $6.25 million response to the coronavirus to support domestic and global interventions, and public health relief. That includes $1 million for the CDC Foundation’s Emergency Relief Fund, $250,000 to the International Medical Corps, and up to $5 million to address local community needs as they evolve. It has also partnered with two San-Francisco-based non-profits Saverlife and Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners, to disperse $1 million in aid to small and micro businesses that are experiencing loss of income. Funds will provide 1,000 businesses with a $500 savings fund boost through small business slender Opportunity Fund, coupled with financial coaching.
Experienced at identifying high potential, high growth opportunities, and at home with a start-up mentality, private equity firms can be critical players in solving the pandemic. Schmidt Futures, a group founded by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, is partnering with philanthropists and venture capitalists to marshal and deploy capital to tackle the coronavirus, rounding up “smaller, and more nimble funders” who can quickly come up with between $100,000 and $1 million. Among those joining the discussions are Seth Bannon, founding partner of Fifty Years, and representatives from Google, Gates, the Sergey Brin Family Foundation, the Bridgespan Group, and the Science Philanthropy Alliance.
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