Corporate America is Shifting Its Philanthropy in Response to 2020

| by Beth Briggs

2020 was tumultuous and it changed our perspective of the world forever. We watched in horror as:

  • The COVID-19 virus spread throughout the world, killing more than 2.2 million people.
  • The worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression resulted in 10 million Americans filing for unemployment as cities and businesses locked down.
  • Social unrest exploded across the U.S. as Black Lives Matter protests called attention to the widening racial inequities that persist in this country.
  • Environmental degradation was a prime suspect as wildfires destroyed more than 4 million acres in California and the Atlantic hurricane season’s thirty named storms pounded the coast.

Then there was the election and the storming the U.S. Capitol on January 6th

In response, there were a million points of light that emerged to help address the pandemic, the economic downturn, social unrest, and climate change. Unsung heroes included volunteers, first responders, healthcare providers, firefighters, law enforcement, pastors, nurses, doctors, nonprofits providing housing, food and shelter, and regular people doing whatever they could to help their neighbors. 

Corporate America also stepped up in 2020 to invest their social and financial capital in programs previously considered off-limits in the business world. Corporate Social Responsibility websites prominently displayed a public commitment to address diversity, systemic racism, social justice, climate change, hunger, poverty, healthcare, housing, and mental health. Companies acknowledged their responsibility to support their employees, communities, and customers in these uncommon times.

Target announced a $10 million commitment and ongoing resources to advance social justice and support rebuilding and recovery efforts in local communities. Target’s website stakes out their position: “After the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many more, we’re reminded that we need to continue to work urgently, every day to build an inclusive environment for all. And more specifically, we know we need to go deeper to create equity with our Black team members and guests. The need for social justice is undeniable and we’re committed to using Target’s size, scale, and resources to create positive change.”

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation “committed $14.3 million to nonprofit organizations that advance racial equity in education, and health care, and pledged another $100 million over the next five years to fight systemic racism. The company is looking within its four walls, to examine how it hires and promotes employees.”

The financial sector made a significant leap when JP Morgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank, announced a $30 million investment over the next five years to address the wealth gap between Black and White Americans. Bank of America and Citigroup each pledged $1 billion over the next four years to address social justice issues.

Locally, the State Employees Credit Union committed up to $10 million to assist with COVID-19 disaster relief and recovery efforts across North Carolina to provide basic food, clothing, shelter, and financial assistance statewide.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC Foundation responded with 82 grants totaling $2,078,000 in support of immediate relief and long-term community response directly addressing COVID-19 conditions in August 2020.   

The BCBSNC Foundation website states, Since the beginning of the outbreak we have been orienting our resources to support organizations that are focused on rebuilding for greater equity. System- and policy-level changes to address and eliminate disparities and inequities within our communities must come forward as part of the recovery, and it will be imperative that those of us in philanthropy commit to supporting these transformational efforts.”

Duke Energy Foundation’s response to COVID-19 included $6 million in support of hunger relief, local health and human services, and educational initiatives to meet the needs of the local communities.

Philanthropy is a heartfelt response to the challenges we face. It is unusual to see the heart of a corporation, but 2020 shifted the way corporate America used their philanthropy to demonstrate its support for the well-being of their employees, the communities they live in, and the customers they serve.

2020 reminded us of our interconnectedness; we have to help one another survive the new challenges faced moving into 2021.

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