Frozen waffles are made for food banks at General Mills' Chanhassen, Minnesota plant.

Community Support in COVID-19 Crisis

Published on October 5, 2020

Corporations displayed community support with cash donations to charitable networks, food banks and campaigns to blunt COVID-19’s economic impact.

The coronavirus has created a unique opportunity for America’s largest companies to display purpose-driven leadership.  Many companies stepped up to support those in their community who were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

As we found in The Purpose Report, 85% of consumers find it important to support causes in the local community. Civic engagement is a value held across gender, generational, racial and political lines. Companies that link their brand to meeting critical needs will be rewarded with brand loyalty long after a crisis leaves.  The report found that 77% prefer to purchase from socially conscious companies.

As the coronavirus continues to devastate communities and overwhelm public services,  showing purpose through community engagement efforts is the sign of a true purpose brand. These and other corporations are providing major community support for COVID-19 relief:


Grants from the banking giant’s Citi Foundation are focused on financial recovery for those most impacted by COVID-19.  The nearly $30 million in grants include $10 million to community-development banks, serving diverse entrepreneurs who do not have access to regular capital markets; $5 million to No Kid Hungry, which supports meal programs for children affected by school closings; $5 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund; and $4.5 million for the Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) and the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund.

General Mills

The home to popular consumer food brands such as Cheerios, Pillsbury and Bisquick focused its community relief efforts on providing access to meals.  Its General Mills Foundation pledged $5 million to ensure food bank capacity increased to meet demand.  The $5 million in donations complemented $40 million worth in food the company gave to community food banks and $5 million to No Kid Hungry.

Gap Inc.

In March the clothing retailer’s Gap Foundation donated over $1 million to nonprofit organizations that are providing relief assistance, including the WHO fund and local relief in San Francisco and New York City, where its headquarters are located.   Distribution centers offered to store emergency supplies.


The home improvement chain authorized local stores to make $4.5 million in product donations,  $3 million to establish a relief fund for its 300,000 North American associates, $3 million to support skilled trades professionals and $1.5 million to help local nonprofits in its home base of Charlotte, North Carolina.


The fast food company, with its local owners and suppliers, donated $3.1 million in food to support local communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The company, which is based in Chicago, gave $1 million dollars to the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund, which helps local nonprofits help those most in need.


The payroll processor’s foundation donated $1 million to the United Way to help support the efforts of nonprofits overwhelmed by demand for human services.  The $1 million donation was directed to United Way organizations in Rochester, New York,  and 10 other communities where the company has an operational presence.


“This unprecedented crisis requires all hands on deck, and companies have a big role to play in directing critical resources to the most vulnerable,” PepsiCo CEO Ramon Laguarta said in April, announcing $15 million in North American contributions.  The food and beverage maker’s initiative funded access to school lunches and community food banks through No Kid Hungry, the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Automaker Subaru is committed to providing 50 million meals through its partnership with Feeding America, with the goal of helping people struck by the pandemic and economic downturn.  The “Subaru Loves to Help” campaign is making meals available to nearly 200 local food banks throughout the country.  To supplement that donation, the company and its car retailers are initiating food drives and volunteer events to make sure local food banks are well stocked.


As part of a $300 million program to raise wages and establish a paid leave, Target earmarked $10 million for organizations responding to the pandemic. Local community foundations received $5 million to support “vulnerable populations such as underrepresented communities.”  Target also pledged $3 million to national organizations, including the food-bank network Feeding America.


The mobile communication giant is partnering with other mobile communication companies, including AT&T and Verizon, to donate thousands of phone chargers to hospitals to help isolated patients stay connected with family and friends.  In addition, the company is supporting small businesses through the COVID-19 crisis by giving away $100,000 to a selection of their clients’ most-loved small businesses and free professional insights on the best ways to tackle today’s unique business challenges.  The company also enhanced its Project 10Million, offering free Wi-Fi connections and hotpots for nearly 10 million students who lack at-home connectivity.

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