It goes without saying that AXA, in common with most modern businesses, strives to have more than just a transactional relationship with the communities it operates in. The business has always encouraged employees to support a wide range of charities through donations, undertaking challenges and through donating their time.
But one of its most recent initiatives has been one of the most successful to date. As the pandemic really started to bite across the country, AXA joined forces with Business in the Community (BITC) to help bring the resources and expertise of many organisations from across the country to offer support where it was needed most.
“Last year we invested £1 million and became a founding partner in the National Business Response Network which initially launched to help businesses, charities and small organisations during the crisis stage of the pandemic,” explains Cath Brunger, Corporate Responsibility Manager at AXA.
Since then, over 4,000 businesses have been matched with charitable organisations across the country, providing support for the local communities they serve with basics such as food and clothing but also with skills and expertise.
“Our own people have been involved as well through volunteering their time and skills to support their local charities and BITC either through delivering a much needed requirement, such as making face-masks or working on specific projects,” says Cath.
“For example, one of our employees worked with a charity in Wales called Safer Wales which supports victims of domestic abuse. They were looking for a way to help people contact the charity more discreetly and our volunteer was able to develop an app that did that for them.”
And likewise, an IT Project Manager from AXA went on secondment to the National Business Response Network to help them improve communication with the people requesting support and making sure they were able to get the information they need to get them through that period of crisis. Using their expert knowledge of IT systems, our volunteer supported in the development of a system which enabled more streamlined assistance for those looking for support.
While there are obvious brand and network-building benefits to be had from this engagement, Cath says that it’s been hugely beneficial from an employee engagement and development perspective too.
“The types of volunteering people are doing is skills-based so it provides a great development opportunity for them and wherever they go or whatever they do, they are bringing key skills back to the business,” she says.
And now, as the country slowly emerges from many months of lockdown, Cath says the focus of the network and AXA’s role in it is evolving.
“We’ve established some great things in the last year but now we’re asking ourselves ‘what’s next?’. So, we’re looking at various opportunities and trying to understand how we can broaden our role within the organisation and the network to support them beyond the pandemic,” she says.
Although we are beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel following the pandemic and the various lockdowns, many charities are still disrupted and are struggling to get back to pre-Covid levels of support. They are now experiencing a heavy increase in demand for their services, particularly with restrictions still in place and traditional fund raising methods no longer available. To offer your skills, support or services, visit COVID-19: Business Response Network – meeting community need and changing lives.