Caring for Employees During Financial Hardships

Tips for Creating an Employee Hardship Fund

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Picture this:

Your HR leader bursts into your office.

“Maria was in a major car accident! Her car is completely wrecked. It is a miracle that she is still alive. They rushed her to the hospital and she is in emergency surgery now.”

Maria is your customer service representative. She is a single mom taking care of two children.

As a company leader, your thoughts started racing:

How would you react in a situation such as this? What actions would you take to help meet Maria’s needs?

Facing Financial Roadblocks 

The Federal Reserve has reported that 40 percent of American families do not have sufficient savings to resolve a $400.00 emergency expense—and that was before the historic wave of unemployment and economic fallout related to the pandemic and inflation. Now, employees across industries are facing unprecedented financial hardship. For some, this is due to adjustments in compensation—personally or for someone they depend on. Many of us leaders are left wondering what we can do to help. As employers, our businesses serve as infrastructure that can support our people through both economically turbulent times and the personal problems employees face even in relatively normal times.

Improving Well-Being and Engagement

An employee hardship fund is a tool that enables companies to support employees and their families when unexpected crises arise. Corporate-led generosity, in turn, inspires a powerful, generous culture.

In a comprehensive study, the Aspen Institute identified a handful of key benefits of an employee hardship fund:

Stewarding Resources

Companies are more likely to accomplish the benefits outlined above by partnering with organizations that set up and administer employee hardship programs through turnkey solutions. For example, Cotribute offers a community dashboard where teams can interact, see and contribute to specific needs, and inspire collective impact. Particularly in an era of increasingly dispersed and remote teams, a platform like Cotribute strengthens distant relationships as employees rally behind their teammates. 

As we aspire to steward the resources God has entrusted to us, we may feel discouraged from seeing generosity mismanaged in the past. If that is the case, partnering with industry organizations can help us bridge the gap. Companies like Helping Hands perform extensive due diligence to qualify recipients and ensure the donations meet IRS guidelines for tax exemption. Their vetting assures us that the funds are going directly to the cause, relieving us of that responsibility. Hardship programs can also use donor-advised funds that are administered by organizations like C12 Strategic Affiliates National Christian Foundation and Waterstone.

The Caring Matrix

Everyone has unique needs that arise in various seasons of life. Recognizing and tangibly meeting others’ needs demonstrates the love of Christ and puts feet into our faith. Jesus modeled throughout his ministry the importance of caring for the physical needs of those around him.

The surest way to live out our Business as a Ministry culture is to fold the gospel into our routine conduct. C12’s Caring Matrix is a tool we can use to consider the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of our stakeholders.


By taking the time to identify the unique mission fields served by our businesses and considering the needs of the individuals who make them up, we can create a clear plan to cascade our care for others across our organizations for the glory of God and the good of others.

Fulfilling a Greater Purpose

It is critical to recognize that employees who are reaching out for assistance usually do so from a place of stress, uncertainty, and anxiety. For many, asking for help is difficult and can be accompanied by feelings of shame. Respect and dignity must remain top of mind and at the core of our approach when interacting with applicants. No one wants to think of themselves as needing charity, so it is important to position hardship funds as a resource we want to expend for anyone in the company community should they hit a rough patch.

Here’s the truth: we are not the managing directors of our companies—God is. At Demos’ Restaurants, showing the love of Christ means sharing the gospel through practical generosity. Watch this video to learn more about how CEO Peter Demos puts this principle into practice:

As Peter began to listen to the needs of his 500+ employees, he started identifying how he could better care for his team, viewing himself as a steward and asking God for ways to help meet needs.

The Caring Matrix model can be highly effective in helping faith-driven companies fulfill their greater purpose and advance the Business As A Ministry vision. As we serve our employees financially, we can care for them emotionally and spiritually by sharing the gospel reason behind our giving. An employee hardship program demonstrates generosity to our teams and invites them to a tangible way of experiencing and participating in generosity.

At C12, we provide Christian business leaders, CEOs, and business owners with the business tools, peer advisory groups, and executive coaching they need to thrive in business and life. To learn more about C12’s approach to Christ-centered business leadership, find a C12 Business Forum near you.

February 2, 2023