Charles Schwab and the Charles Schwab Foundation takes a strategic and comprehensive approach to disaster response. They have established several systems and protocols to facilitate their efforts. Knowing that they cannot respond to every disaster, they created a formal process and matrix to evaluate disasters in an objective manner based off criteria that is important to them. They gather insights from a variety of reliable resources to assess the impact on key stakeholders including employees, clients, the overall business and their nonprofit/community partners. They look at what assets they have available and use data to craft the best response possible.

Charles Schwab has two primary vehicles for response efforts: direct corporate grant-making and a 2:1 employee matching gifts program. The matching gifts program gives employees a way to response, so this is a priority. Once determined that a disaster meets criteria for a response, they work with trusted sources such as the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, Benevity (their online giving platform provider) and counterparts in Schwab Charitable (a company division that manages donor-advised funds and advises those clients on where to give), to identify qualified organizations to recommend to employees. Once determined, a communications plan is implemented to launch the matching gifts program for vetted organizations who are doing work on the ground in the affected areas. They work in tandem with Schwab Charitable to ensure consistency in the vetted organizations that are recommended to clients and employees.

For disasters that have a level of impact that warrant a corporate grant, Schwab follows a similar process of gathering information from trusted resources and working closely with internal and external stakeholders. Taking the time to gather reliable data and insights means that Schwab generally does not respond immediately. They prioritize getting accurate information and understanding the true impact on communities both immediately and long term. Charles Schwab often supports longer term recovery, rather than just immediate relief.  One advantage for this approach is that it gives time for communities to truly assess their needs and potentially establish local “community funds” to provide support both during and after the event. By investing in these community funds, Schwab gives those on the ground the flexibility to use the grant dollars where they are needed most.

The Charles Schwab Foundation budgets for disaster relief and response annually, and the foundation board allows them to carry unspent funds over to the next year. In addition, if the evaluation of a disaster’s impact (using their standard evaluation matrix) indicates a response level that is beyond what is remaining in the current budget, they may request additional funding from the board. To streamline decision-making for disaster grants,  approval can be given by the foundation president, rather than requiring a full board vote.


Casey Cortese, Senior Managing Director, Community Services at Charles Schwab, identified the following strengths of their program:

  • Working as part of a larger corporate group to establish a comprehensive corporate response.
  • Utilizing the same trusted resources and process in each disaster to identify vetted organizations to build consistency.
  • Rapid communications on the vetted organizations for the matching gifts program so employees can engage right away. Having a communications template can make this process simple and consistent.
  • Using the matrix EVERY time and comparing responses with similar disasters. Access the Sample Disaster Funding Matrix and a word version of the Sample Disaster Funding Matrix.