An Environmental Scan of Disaster Relief and Employee Hardship Funds

Oct 11, 2015
  • Description

Employers have long tried to assist their employees who may be facing either a disaster or personal emergency hardship. This assistance may be informal and organic, like "passing the hat" or may necessitate a more formal, legal structure such as a charitable fund or foundation. To date, no data has been collected on the scale and scope of employer-provided emergency assistance programs or their characteristics and best practices. This paper captures 73 responses (53 from web-based survey and 20 verbal responses) within an estimated universe of 100-125 known funds or foundations. The key findings are:

  • Over 60% of existing employee relief funds have been created since 2001.
  • Most funds are disaster-relief only, since 60% were created immediately after a disaster and many employer groups do not wish to comply with IRS requirements for personal hardship grants.
  • Assistance funds, for both disaster relief and personal hardship, typically give out one disaster grant for every three personal hardship grants.
  • Most grants, 80%, are made to vendors rather than to employees directly.
  • Over 60% of assistance funds are administered by corporate foundations and 70% have less than two FTEs managing the program.
  • Overall, 20-30% of employees donate and 70% of programs offer a matching plan.
  • Over 80% of programs have tax-deductible donations with 73% of programs reporting tax-free grants.
  • Only 38% of programs offer on-line donations.
  • Every program offers qualified disaster relief, yet only 48% offer personal-hardship grants.
  • Nearly 60% of application-review decisions are made within one week.
  • Average grants are 25-50% of the program's maximum grant amount.
  • Advisory/Oversight Committees have 4-5 members on average and 57% meet weekly or as needed.