The power of communities and businesses

Bringing communities and businesses together in their time of need


25 March 2021

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we joined forces with Business in the Community to launch the National Business Response Network to match communities in need with businesses that can offer support. One year on, the network has supported over one million people. And we’re incredibly proud of our employees for getting involved who’ve volunteered their time and expertise to support local charities from the network.


The National Business Response Network connects national and local community groups, businesses, local authorities and charities needing help in providing food, medicine or community services with business offers of help. In 2020, we made a donation of £1 million to help accelerate the efforts of the initiative, and in 2021 we’re donating a further £500,000. Since launch, and as of March 2021, the network has achieved over 3,500 matches, reaching over one million people across the UK.

Despite the easing of lockdown, the network continues to face great demand for support, focusing its activity on four key areas helping communities navigate their way through the coronavirus pandemic:


Ensuring people have continued access to food

Community care

Support to vulnerable groups and older people to enable continued access to food, healthcare, social interaction and other essentials


Support that enables children to continue learning and older people to stay connected to families

Small businesses

Creating resources with advice and practical tools specifically for small businesses; providing business continuity and wellbeing support through mentoring for small businesses

The network is supported by over 750 business leaders, committed and ready to take action by mobilising their thousands of employees, supply chains and partners in their local community. At the start of the pandemic, food was the most requested item. This then shifted to personal protective equipment (PPE), followed by technology to help tackle the digital divide.

Communities coming together during a time in need

Since launching, the National Business Response Network has facilitated over 3,500 matches, making a real difference to people’s lives. From donations of smartphones that have allowed clients at Elmore Community Services in Oxford to continue receiving essential face-to-face mental health support throughout the crisis, to donations of food and sandwiches that have helped organisations like Fareshare support over 200 communities across the country. Our employees are also getting stuck-in and have supported MHA, the UK’s largest care provider, to keep elderly residents connected with the outside world with 20-minute phone calls and others have offered advice and training on diversity and inclusion to the Green House Charity, who offer free counselling for anyone who has experienced sexual abuse. But there is still more to do. Community organisations in need of help and businesses wanting to offer their support, can visit the National Business Response Network.

The Stable Café benefits from Food Donations

Originally set up to help unemployed people back into work by providing work experience and training, when the pandemic began, The Stable Café in Weston-super-Mare switched their focus to support families by delivering school lunch boxes to local children. The NBRN facilitated donations of food and packaging helping The Stable Café deliver over 7,000 free lunches so far.

Making Masks for the Seashell Trust

AXA employees have helped to kit out key workers at the Seashell Trust in South Manchester by sewing face masks. Matched through the National Business Response Network, the charity supports children with complex learning disabilities and their families with education and care.

“The masks are invaluable for our frontline workers who are caring for some of the most vulnerable children and young people in the country through such a challenging period. This is especially so now that it is necessary to wear a mask. Keeping our children, staff and families safe is our absolute priority and AXA colleagues are really helping us to do that.”

Wendy Bray, Fundraising Manager at Seashell Trust

Project Management Support for the National Business Response Network

When Business in the Community set up the National Business Response Network, they reached out to their founding partners for project management support. Sophie Dobbs, IT Project Manager from AXA Insurance volunteered for the position. Her secondment from AXA has helped to support the smooth running of the NBRN, helping improve communication with those requesting support, making sure they are able to get the information they need throughout what can be a difficult time. With the incredible passion and hard work of the entire team, the NBRN platform has been successfully launched and continues to be improved and developed, with over 3,500 requests for support already received.

Sophie Dobbs sat at her computer

How you can help

Community organisations in need of help and businesses wanting to offer their support, can visit the National Business Response Network online board of needs and offers.