A group of Syrian refugees arrive on the island of Lesbos after traveling in an inflatable raft from Turkey, near Skala Sykaminias, Greece
© UNHCR / A.McConnell
A group of Syrian refugees arrive on the island of Lesbos after traveling in an inflatable raft from Turkey, near Skala Sykaminias, Greece
Last updated: September 28, 2015
Private sector can lead politicians on refugee crisis

"Individuals can help and do not need to wait for the national government or local leaders"

Banner Icon How many of us are sitting in front of our television screens and watching the horrible scenes of refugees trudging their way across seas and land in order to carve out a new life? Naava Mashiah offers a list of ideas on how to make a real contribution.

Everyone has their breaking point; when do you decide to rise up and take initiative? A pivotal image of a young boy moved many out of their comfort zone. But there must be more we can do than simply remaining frustrated at the sheer suffering of humanity and the absence of compassion on our continental shores. The political wrangling sill continue, but meanwhile each one of us can act. 

For those whom do not know how to contribute, we have met with the UNHCR in Geneva and brainstormed how the private sector, companies, or individuals can help. We plotted ideas on a one pager defining a range of ideas of how business leaders might assist. How they can inspire their employees to practically alleviate the tragic conditions of refugees.  How the CEOs can mobilize their resources and team members towards the cause of helping the refugees. 

The one pager was posted on the YPO/WPO website which is an international CEO network and immediately we had responses from different corners of the globe. People from Zimbabwe, Kazakhstan, Los Angeles donated funds and offered to volunteer. 

The UNHCR team was humbled at the outpour of response. 

Individuals can help and do not need to wait for the national government or local leaders to make up policies and their minds on this urgent issue.

In fact, it is sometimes the 'leaders' who follow their constituencies, not the other way around. All of us may not be leaders of companies, but we may be employees of a company or live in a neighbourhood where we can influence business leaders to participate in the following range of ideas.  

Which idea will you adopt to help the refugees? 

Board members or leaders:

-          Publicise our appeal to staff and your networks;

-          Reach out to other businesses who can also help UNHCR with operational support or donations;

-          Reach out to your peers – peer to peer fundraising;

-          Public pledges of support to motivate staff / others to give;

-          Fundraising matching challenges – match staff giving;

-          Pledging 1-minute profits; and

-          Donating 1-hour salary. 

Business Operations:

-          Making parts of your supply chain available to UNHCR operationally;

-          Cause related marketing;

-          Challenging peer companies; and

-          Payment gateways: ATMs, Money Transfer, Cash collections, banking facilities, bill payment systems.  Anyone who has systems that could collect donations for UNHCR.


-          Communications for all staff fundraising activities;

-          Daily (in an emergency) / or other update on UNHCRs work on the ground – “inside track”;

-          Visibility of fundraising target progress and company involvement; and

-          Publicise company leadership;


-          Link to UNHCR’s website;

-          A “pledge your support” button (to collect potential donor data for UNHCR);

-          Content to promote corporate gifts the company makes;

-          In emergencies, put a page up with details of the emergency;

-          Host a homepage banner;

-          Add a donate button; and

-          Add a donation to a transaction (for online retailers).


-          Donation boxes;

-          Collection points;

-          Emailing customers to promote or ask for donations;

-          Access to your Twitter / social network;

-          Content in newsletters;

-          Emails / texts send sent on our behalf;

-          Insert donation flyer in delivery;

-          Add a donation button to payment pages;

-          Refer customers to UNHCR via web link;

-          Match customer donations; and

-          Donate proceeds from particular products for a limited period of time – cause related marketing.


-          Match their gifts;

-          Staff fundraising activity;

-          Canteen donations;

-          Text to donate promotions;

-          Donate 1-hour salary;

-          Visibility in office / shop windows;

-          Collection points for public gifts;

-          Encourage peer giving; and

-          Be given an hour off to fundraise.


-          What can you lend UNHCR?

-          What can you help UNHCR negotiate?

-          Fleets of lorries;

-          Contacts with suppliers; and

-          Access to corporate address book.

Access to Broadcast media:

-          Free advertising space;

-          Free access to TV channels, print media, radio programmes – to air our DRTV / content / appeal scripts;

-          Access their celebrities;

-          “Filler” adverts on vacant outdoor advertising sites – bus stops, stations, or on-line on big traffic websites; and

-          Sports arena score board space.


Please be in touch with me or directly with Ms Claire Palmer palmerc@unhcr.org

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