Blurring the Lines Between Business, Social Impact, and Giving to Individuals

Audio Description

What do you get when you connect the dots between business and philanthropy? An innovative humanitarian solution that delivers hundreds of millions in emergency financial relief to workers worldwide.


This transcript has been generated by an A.I. tool. Please excuse any typos. 

Today's guest needs no introduction. She's a shining star in the social sector. Holly Welch Stubbing led the development investment in legal teams that grew the foundation for the Carolinas from 180 million to 3.3 billion, but that was just the beginning as a true innovator. Holly not only recognized early major trends in why and how people give, but also she connected the dots across philanthropy and multiple other industries to create a humanitarian solution. E four E Relief is now delivering hundreds of millions of dollars in emergency financial relief to workers around the world. It's extraordinary.

Hi everyone. Welcome to Inspired Investing. I'm your host, Clare Golla, head of Philanthropic Services at Bernstein. This podcast is where we connect and share insights with listeners like you who are engaged in the nonprofit, philanthropy, and broader social sector. Holly, it is an honor to have you here today.

Thank you. 

Thank you so much, Clare. I'm really excited to be with you and talk about innovative trends in grant making. 

Yes. Innovation is what I think of when I think of you, Holly, because you are known for being quite a visionary in the social sector. And so let's just start with the, you know, so the audience can hear about your journey, how you first became involved with Foundation for the Carolinas, and then also E4E Relief.

Yeah. Well, I, I have had such an amazing experience being involved in philanthropy for so long and really being able to work with the Carolina's most generous families and corporations has given me a bird's eye view on their generosity and all things giving in grant making, learning from them, learning from the community, and then thinking about new ways to do things.

And so, you know, that really set us up for where we are now. And I, I think. You know, we were really born out of a tragedy, and that was 9/11, um, in New York.

And banks headquartered here in the Carolinas were directly impacted by that tragedy. And we worked with Bank of America and then Wachovia Bank to create the first known employee relief funds for members of their workforce.

And the experience and the learning that started there led to the creation of what is now ere e relief. Which we really call a social enterprise that provides workforce and supply chain relief solutions for companies and their key stakeholders, and we've awarded over 250 million in grants to individuals the past five years in those programs.

That's really extraordinary. Over 250 million to individuals affected over the last, uh, five years. And so when I think about the arc of your career, Holly, there's so many trends where you've been at the forefront and you've been connecting these dots, right? The first one that I wanna touch on is this desire of donors to give directly to individuals instead of through organizations.

And we know that this can be really tricky. If you don't have the right partner right in, in doing this. And so share a little bit more about this and you know, how your platform facilitates this kind of giving.

Well, when you think about societal trends in terms of the trust that people have in institutions and governments, and then you layer on generational norms and how different generations view philanthropy.

Yeah. It's kind of easy to see how creating an engine for good that supports grants directly to individuals worldwide. Might find a home in a pre and post covid world. Mm-hmm. Ere relief sort of took that and operates now a workforce and supply chain relief program for small, mid and large size companies that makes cash grant awards to individuals worldwide.

And what we've learned over the last 20 years in delivering these services is that we are typically a financial first responder. In other words, we are the first dollars that individuals may receive after a catastrophic event strike.

Our work compliments essential on the ground efforts, but the platform was really built to scale for high volume disaster events, and it's designed around individually based financial hardships, things that are more singular to an individual person as opposed to a mass event, be that climate or geopolitical or, or war that affects a, a large group of people.

So, okay. That leads me to this next trend, Holly, which relates to the incredible amount of global disruption that's really been occurring in recent years. In particular, how has E four E relief adapted to the changing landscape of philanthropy?

Particularly in response to all of these recent economic and environmental upheavals, like war covid, natural disasters, which are becoming more and more frequent.

Unfortunately, due to climate change, we are in the center of serving as a financial first responder that professionalized the idea of grant makings to a human being in crisis. And in order to do that, I mean, we had to sort of step back and do a few things. One is we had to think about, well, Why is this occurring?

You know, what are the macroeconomic trends and other political and you know, societal trends that are driving the need for this? And why is that important?

Well, that's important because that's how you form a readiness plan. If you don't understand what's gonna come and why it's gonna come, you can't really be ready for the next one.

And so I think we found ourselves looking at both climate change, but also, the geopolitical considerations and the economic conditions that face workers in a post covid world.

And so we knew that our solution had to be efficient, smart, and an excellent experience. But it also has to provide our team with the kind of information necessary for our grant, grant specialist and our quality specialist to review, to parse the information and to make decision.

And I think the investments we've made are at the core of the strategy to rise, to meet the growing demand you articulated because of these kinds of trends. You know, in essence, we find ourselves sitting in the middle of, of what many people call climate adaptation strategies, of which we are one. 

Okay. So this is really interesting. I wanna dig into this a little bit. 

If you think about we're, we're doing this for roughly 140 companies. Uh, most of those are large firms.

There are 50 Fortune 500 s in there, so we're operating where companies operate and we help them navigate events impacting their workforce and supply chain worldwide.

We now know that the solution kind of blurs the lines between business and social impact and weaves together a solution for companies that solves for readiness for the next disaster. And so when we stand in the shoes of the companies that we're working for, because that's really what we're doing.

We are providing a compassionate response on their behalf of varying kinds to help the company operate in a humane and humanitarian way, but also one that helps provide, provide business impact to the firm, getting people back to work more quickly, retaining people to work longer at the firm, and maybe hopefully engaging with their peers around supports for various parts of the world in which a company operate.

Yeah, I think it's interesting. Um, I wanna get back to kind of the how it works, but before we do that, can you just frame and maybe give some examples for the audience of, you know, some of the crises and the disasters, uh, that for which the platform has helped support individuals and communities. Just give, give us some concrete examples.

So you're talking about COVID floods in Europe, the Ukraine crisis, the Turkey, Syria, earthquakes, most recently typhoons and the Philippines hurricanes in the United States.

I mean, you're talking about every major event that has an impact on a company's workforce probably is now hitting our organization because we're supporting 6 million people worldwide.

About 1.2 of those are outside the United States, so, You know, we're not gonna hit every event, um, in, on every continent. But, you know, if there's an event, we're probably gonna have an application associated with it.

The question is, are we gonna have high volume? Yeah. And some of the things I mentioned to you either earlier around, you know, you mentioned the Ukraine and covid, these things drove significant volume or complexity or both.

Um, delivering payments into the Ukraine, um, was not an easy. Thing to try and figure out.

And yet, in the early days of that, uh, people were fleeing the country, going to Poland, going to nearby eastern European nations housing people. We had plenty of companies who were actually housing workforce members from the Ukraine and they were trying to figure out what to do.

And so the relief program takes center stage in something like that because it's, it's something that is ready to go and available for individuals. Okay, so how are you making decisions in terms of which crises or hardships that you cover on your platform? Because I could imagine it immediately just becoming too much.

Yeah, it's a, it's a great question. We have a product team now that's really focused on, uh, event classifications. But you know, if you go back a step and you say, okay, well what does the company wanna support? Part of our process is to sit down.

With philanthropists and say, what is the design of your program?

We have 40 events here, 50 that you can cover. You can literally customize the event selection because of the way we've built the solution.

And so you can say, I want to cover as few as three events, or I wanna cover everything you have. And so the, the company is actually making that decision up front, but they can add a this if something really horrible happens to their workforce.

So it's designed around the idea of what they can afford, what they believe they wanna support, what other benefits and solutions they offer to their workforce. Right? 

So it's what the company can afford. And so it really is, is it a part of the benefits package then? It's it's not a, a legally it's not a benefit.

Okay. Because we're operating as a 501 public charity, but uh, certainly it's a workforce solution that is concluded as part of an overall offering.

To say, Hey, you know, we're going to let you know it's available. If something happens, the CEO typically gets on video or gets in front of the team and says, Hey, this is something that we've, we have in place for you and we really hope that you'll use it if you need it.

You know, and so that's really how it works. 

Okay. And so the company is effectively putting dollars into this 501. The 501 is then like a public foundation in certain ways, but delivering to individuals, right? So your background in that space makes a ton of sense here at all. Starts to come together.

Explain how, like how does it work logistically? So you know, particularly in terms of outreach and the application process, you're trying to balance this need for quick and efficient support, but also, vetting, right? Like due diligence in grant making. And then in many of these cases, I would think just finding people, getting them those funds.

I mean, you just use Ukraine as a, as an example. Walk us through some of this. 

So logistically, um, a company approaches us about either managing an existing program they have or creating a brand new program for their workforce. And I would, I would classify us as kind of a frontier field. So, A lot of the companies that we're setting up programs for have never had one before.

Mm-hmm. Yeah. So we are guiding them through that design phase of saying, these are the types of events you might want to consider. This is what it will cost you on an annual basis. This is how, you know, you might consider rolling it out. Um, a lot of times companies have a sophisticated manner for rolling things like this out, but logistically that's how that relationship starts.

And then once we work with them to design a program, It's typically designed for something that's unique to their industry. You know, an industry that has, uh, its focus in manufacturing might look very different in terms of its needs than a financial services or insurance partner, right?

So their, their frontline workforce may look very different from a safety perspective, for example, than than another industry. And so at some level, the events and the design are factored into whatever the company is experiencing. And then the platform is then configured to match up to those design selections, their brand.

It's white labeled for the firm. It looks like the firm. And we then work with a company to design it, launch it, fund it, and we sort of stand ready to assist on an unknown number of applications for whatever these things are. So, As you might imagine, there's a fair amount of math going into the idea of modeling.

Well, what does that look like and how might, you know, how might a high oriented, high volume event compare to a, you know, very small event for the company. And so that that modeling and that predictive analytics is what we're sort of applying to this as we onboard that firm and walk them through a process.

And I mean, you know, disasters are exactly that. They are unexpected. They are unknown when we think about this past fall and the severity of Hurricane Ian and Fiona. Fiona was extremely damaging. Yeah. In Puerto Rico and unexpected. And Hurricane Ian in Florida was devastating to that part of Florida and it impacted certain industries, hospitality, restaurant institutions, banking institutions, pretty dramatically.

There were whole restaurants, banks, et cetera, wiped out, uh, because it was such a high, uh, wind high flood event. Yeah, so you know, you can only prepare so much, but I think the point is having a responsible ready program in place means that people aren't scurrying about in the middle of the disaster.

There's already something there, and I think that's why these programs have gotten more popular. In the last few years. Yeah. You mentioned Hurricane Ian. It's really interesting. That was one of the catalysts for us to have on, um, as one of our podcast guests, Ben Smallowitz, with the Disaster Accountability Project, using technology really to, uh, determine who the on the ground organizations are, who are the groups that are already doing work in these areas for donors, right?

So often donors are asking, How do we get access to these smaller organizations? We know about Red Cross, we know about, right? Like sort of we know about the big dogs, right? But we're not really able to connect with these smaller groups. So I think this is sort of another way for corporations. To get directly at, right.

The people who need it most in an effective way. So a follow up to this then Holly would be, have there been any situations where you've had to say no? Where you've had to say, sorry, we cannot respond to this? 

Yeah. You have a regular body of review that includes declined awards. A lot of times it's because it doesn't meet the criteria.

The company is set out for support. So someone will ask for support in a hardship that's not covered. But, and the company has a disaster program only, I will say that we are sort of built to be ready for any quantity of unknown events from a disaster perspective. So the way the program works is that they're not, they're not defined because they're an unknown.

And so, you know, there, there are these catastrophic events that are unknown that we're sort of set to provide. An unknown number of supports for, but as far as natural disaster and financial hardships, those are known, those are determined by the firm. And if you don't meet the criteria associated with the documentation, if you don't have, um, the proof that you lived in that place and did that thing at that time, then you will, you will be declined.

I wanna go back to something you said about Covid, because that really prompted businesses to think about their workforce much more broadly and differently, and you've explained this concept before to me of supply chain relief. So could you share a little bit more about that and how it fits into your platform?

Yeah, absolutely. I think Covid really shed a light on the key stakeholders of companies and the critical vendors of firms and how important those folks were. To, you know, delivering the product or the service that they were offering. And so when we think of workforce, uh, as a term that we define a little bit more broadly to include key stakeholders, Um, supply chain relief, it's is really where, how this falls out.

It's, it's offering grant relief awards to workers that are critical to your supply chain in the event of a catastrophic disaster of a financial hardship. And these grants, uh, for supply chain tend to be more global in nature. It's not always the case, but we know from research that the global brands to supply chain workers provide outsized economic and social benefits.

Not only to the workers themselves, but the communities that they're living in. And so if you think of supply chain relief as an emerging concept, where we see large leading industry players putting in place the impact of their key stakeholders on the firm, and they are looking to provide the right kind of response on the ground when things happen.

One of the things we've been thinking about and given your leadership at Bernstein in sustainable thinking and ESG thinking we're, we are writing and thinking and learning about Scope 123 emissions in relationship to carbon with a lens towards. Scope, 1, 2, 3, stakeholder. So if we think about, you know, emissions and the carbon output as a moniker of the success or risk profile of a firm and how Bernstein might evaluate that from a, uh, from an overall ESG investment lens, either credit or equity, we are beginning to see mounting evidence that sophistication associated with carbon emissions frameworks could be applied to stakeholders as well.

So in many instances you kind of already see the Global 500 or the Fortune 500 already focused on their key stakeholders, but certainly covid, which you asked about really shined a light on those next levels out of how they are treating the communities that they're operating in and what, you know, what a firm might be doing as a critical part of its quote, stakeholder capitalism efforts in those places and in the combination with this thinking around.

Um, scope 1 23 stakeholder, so to speak. We've been thinking about that in relationship to how does that relate to sustainable value creation strategy for a company. And when you think about sustainable value creation as a mechanism of driving out investments into these firms, then it be, you begin to tie the business and the social piece together. Weave them together in a little bit more clear way.

Well, it's very much like, um, when you think about responsible investing or, you know, ESG investing, right? The history of, okay, we're going to exclude certain securities from the portfolio. We're gonna cut out the bad stuff too. Who are the leaders who are actually creating the most positive value right out there, who are really leading the charge in terms of environmental, social governance factors, those sorts of things.

So it's a really, again, it's a new sort of frontier concept, but I love it. It's, it's very, very interesting. Um, so I've gotta ask Holly, as a visionary, How do you see your platform evolving in the future? Right? Particularly in response to, you know, continuing changing trends and priorities in philanthropy.

Well, we spend a lot of time today talking about how to expand to other key stakeholders, and in order for us to do that, we've gotta continue investing in the necessary infrastructure investments to scale the business and to be able to operate. In the global manner that these companies would expect.

And so that is gonna require continued investment in our platform in that way. But I see investments in applicant and customer experience and kind of all things global as critical leadership items push our ability to serve those best to meet us most. You know, we have exciting announcements coming soon about our, uh, investment and leadership in impact insight.

Okay. Which I'm super excited about because it's going to be including as part of the platform, the business and social impact of the investments that the companies are making and really thinking about the data that we have now in scope, you know, available to the company in a very different way than they've ever had in the past.

And so what we're hoping, Clare, is that. You know, it gets after, you know, a lot of these companies have really spent a lot of time talking about ESG reporting Yeah. And stakeholder capitalism metrics and which one to use and which firm and which software and which things. And what we're hoping is that we're literally hand delivering a set of data points to them in this nichey world that we're in that helps justify, uh, their investment in the s which is really what we are.

We are, we are an investment in the firm. Hopefully lowering the risk profile in which, which they operate, but also maybe leaning into. The idea that there really is sustainable value creation and there really is a business reason. 

Yeah, it's that virtuous cycle, right? It's the, there's an ROI, so you're delivering the data on the roi, on the impact, right?

That's being made on the ground, but also on. To your point, the, the risk metrics that are so important to running the business. I'm wrapping my head around it and I'm looking forward to hearing the, uh, the announcement. Yes. I can't wait. Holly, I have to ask you, we've so many business owners, entrepreneurs who are philanthropic as well as listeners, what do they do?

Do they just look you up? Do they just Google E4E? I'm just curious.

Yes. I mean, that's great. We have a presence on all the search engines and they can contact us at Um, we do accept gifts, um, unrestricted gifts to sort of feed into our disaster response efforts. Most of our gifts are obviously from companies or communities that have programs with us, but we do have, uh, unrestricted, unsolicited gifts, um, to be most, uh, effective on ground during these disasters.

We typically get them during something like a Ukraine or something like that.

Yeah, it's really amazing. Uh, Holly, you draw on so many different industries. Different parts of companies, different sectors really to scale humanitarian solutions. It's just, it's such a pleasure to to chat with you about this.

Thank you so much for joining us today.

Thank you so much. 

Boy, we've covered a lot. We've covered a lot, so I appreciate it. Thank you so much, and thank you all for joining me today. Our audience. If you'd like to learn more, please see the link in this episode's description. And if you enjoyed this episode and haven't subscribed to our podcast yet, please go to Spotify or wherever you go to listen to podcasts and subscribe to us and rate us.

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