Acting quickly: How we set up a $22k corporate giving campaign for the Maui fires

In three short days, we exceeded our fundraising goal for our Maui Fire Relief corporate giving campaign. It wasn’t easy though, and we learned a lot in the process of getting a corporate give and match program up and running quickly. By listening to our employees and creating swift action plans, we raised over $20,000 in just 72 hours. 

Submittable’s Corporate Giving Program is nothing new. A dedicated team launched the Maui Fire Relief giving campaign with a push from employees across the company. AJ Forkner, our manager of customer success, led the charge by connecting with our employees, community, and customers.

We’re honored to support the Maui community during this time of need. At the close of the campaign, we raised over $22,000 and saw a 35% participation rate among employees, exceeding the average participation rate of 20% for giving campaigns (CECP Giving in Numbers 2022). Here’s how we did it and what we learned along the way.

Incorporate employee voice into CSR programs

When a giving campaign is relevant to them, employees participate. To choose one that aligns with employees’ interests and lived experience, listen.

The Maui fires were a big concern for Submittable employees due to the severity of the damage and their personal experiences dealing with the impact of fires. And these employees made sure their concerns were heard.

Submittable has close ties with our customers in Hawaii. Personally knowing some of those affected ignited urgency among our staff to develop a plan. Additionally, many Submittable employees live in the Pacific Northwest and California. Both areas have a long and growing history of wildfire devastation. This grassroots upswell inspired AJ to speak up.

At a previous job, AJ had a colleague who was severely affected by a wildfire in Paradise, California. He describes:

“A wildfire ripped through Paradise, California, and one of our colleagues’ parents lost their home. I just immediately mobilized an effort to try and get resources across the organization to donate and help the city of Paradise. The guy was an engineer, and I was in sales. But I saw somebody who needed help. And so I just used my voice to mobilize the organization, get people on board, and help out”. 

AJ continues, “[It] doesn’t matter what your job is. This is so much bigger than ourselves. What we do every single day, and how we care for each other matters.” Employees don’t need to be part of a specific team—CSR, HR, marketing, etc.—to be able to bring social impact ideas to the forefront of the company. 

A desire to make a difference can come from anywhere in your organization. The most impactful ideas won’t come from just one person or team. You need a system in place to capture that upswell when it happens to ensure that your employees feel heard, have a way to act on their desire, and to (most importantly) make an impact.

Plan ahead and act with urgency

Waiting until disaster strikes to set up your program can undercut even the best of intentions. You need processes and approvals in place before an emergency hits. Fires, hurricanes, and other disasters happen quickly, and if you have to wait until they have already caused mass destruction to set up a campaign, it can be less than helpful or even too late. 

The fires in Maui had been ravaging the area for a few days before we could act on requests from employees across the organization. While there was interest from employees almost immediately, we didn’t yet have the appropriate channels in place to get the right approvals.

Ensuring your employees’ voices are heard and recognized quickly is a key step to making sure your CSR programs are successful. The quicker you can understand and validate employee sentiment, the faster you can build authentic programs. 

Once several people, including AJ, made their desire to help with the Maui fires loud and clear, we acted swiftly.

Our senior leadership approved a program to match employee donations up to $10,000 in just a matter of hours. While this was quick, we could have acted even faster had we already earmarked funds to go towards employee-led impact initiatives. 

After going through the process of enabling the Maui Fire Relief campaign for Submittable, AJ recommends:

“Have a slush fund for emergency immediate action. Whether it’s in your own community or whether it’s a community that you’re passionate about, have some dollars allocated that’s  no-question-asked, no-approval-necessary. It can get done and set up immediately.”

This way, as soon as the need is recognized, you can put a plan into action without the red tape. 

CSR requires preparedness and swift action

Supporting our community is core to Submittable’s mission and culture. We’re on a constant journey to learn and improve–and fold those insights into our products. 

Our experience with the Maui Fire Relief campaign highlights how good corporate social responsibility programs require preparedness, swift action, and effective communication. By integrating these lessons into our future initiatives, we are committed to continuing our journey of making a meaningful and positive impact on our community and beyond.

If you or our organization is interested in learning how you can build giving campaigns, we invite you to attend a live demo.

Madison Silver

Madi is a product marketer at Submittable focused on CSR and helping companies align their goals with their employees and their communities. When not working, Madi is exploring the PNW or hanging with her dog and two cats!