Charity and insurance – what makes a genuine partnership?

"I would personally love to see many more of our partners and peers… getting involved"

Charity and insurance – what makes a genuine partnership?

Non-Profits & Charities

By Mia Wallace

The popular model of human motivation ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’ posits that there are five categories of requirements which dictate an individual’s behaviour – physiological (e.g. food and shelter), safety (e.g. job security), love and belonging (e.g. friendship), esteem (e.g. recognition), and self-actualisation. According to the theory, the needs of each lower level must be met before a person can move on to the next.

Despite the widespread recognition of the necessity to fulfil the most basic physiological needs of human beings before further support can be utilised, all too often the world’s most essential resources don’t reach those most in need. And so, the international disaster relief charity ShelterBox was founded with a singular vision in mind – that no-one should be without shelter after a disaster.

The work of ShelterBox

Speaking with Insurance Business, ShelterBox CEO Sanj Srikanthan noted that the charity was formed in the year 2000 at a time when the need for emergency shelter after disaster and conflict was widely unmet.

“Only about one-in-five families would receive shelter and a roof over their head when everything had been taken from them,” he said. “This was recognised by our founders who were Rotarians as something that nobody else was really interested in. People were providing food aid, water aid and medical aid but shelter was almost one of those things where we left people to their own devices. And they felt this was wrong.”

It was driven by that conviction that the founders created ShelterBox which started out providing ‘shelter in a box’. Although the green boxes are well-recognised, Srikanthan said, ShelterBox no longer provides aid only in boxes. The charity works with disaster-affected communities and local partners to understand what people need. Support is provided in many ways and includes different combinations of emergency shelter items and training that are locally appropriate to make the biggest difference for communities after a disaster.

He noted that the charity has been going for 22 years now and unfortunately is seeing the demand for its services ever-increasing as disasters become more unpredictable and severe.

“It’s also important to recognise that [shelter] contributes to other things,” Srikanthan said. “It also reduces the likelihood of sexual violence. It provides shelter and protection for children as well as an opportunity for them to reintegrate into the school system. When you haven’t got a roof over your head, schooling is not the thing you’re thinking about.

“But most importantly, it recreates the family unit under a common location where they can start to think about how to get back to work or in some cases to start a home business from their shelter as we’ve seen in the Minawao camp in Cameroon. So, it’s about so much more than just a roof over your head.”

Building strong charity partnerships

As a long-standing advocate of the charity partnership between ShelterBox and Arch Insurance, Patrick Palmer, head of marketing, communications and CSR at Arch Insurance International has seen first-hand how the organisations working together has provided a mutual benefit. Touching on how the partnership first came about he noted that as Arch has grown significantly in recent years it has also sought to broaden and deepen its community impact.

“We’re fortunate to be able to make an impact through areas such as volunteering and providing financial support to charities,” he said. “For us, one of the critical things when working with charities is to find partners who can have the greatest positive community impact with the support we’re able to provide.

“Equally, we’ve sought out charities with whom we feel we can build genuine partnerships. There are so many wonderful causes out there that it can sometimes be quite difficult to make that selection. So, when we set about the process, we established a set number of criteria to help us find the right partnerships. ShelterBox genuinely ticked every single box in terms of aligning with our purpose, our values and our key areas of focus.”

Above and beyond that, Palmer and the Arch UK CSR Committee were blown away by ShelterBox’s commitment to building a truly integrated partnership. The passion and drive that imbues every person within that organisation are completely infectious, he said, and when the Arch team asked its people to select the charities they want to support, both ShelterBox and Arch’s other key charity partner Insurance United Against Dementia (IUAD) won the vote by a country mile.

Examining what has made the link-up between the organisations really stand out, Srikanthan highlighted that ShelterBox’s concept of partnership is to truly immerse its partners in what the charity does.

“If you want to understand the issues behind the cause you’re supporting, that’s what we offer at ShelterBox,” he said. “We really want you not just to contribute your time or your resources, but also to understand where those resources and that time are making a difference around the world.

“The multiplier effect that you have on people you’ve never met is huge. And for any organisation looking to have that impact around the world, beyond the scope of what you do in our day job – we can give you that and, I hope, give you that experience to understand why it’s important to do it.”

Being part of the shelter ‘solution’

That true partnership approach has been met with incredible enthusiasm from Arch, Palmer said, as that level of focus and engagement on where the resources end up benefitting is the real proof of concept of any charitable initiative. In addition, he said, ShelterBox actively seeks engagement regarding which areas the team would like its support to localise in. When Typhoon Rai impacted Arch’s colleagues in the Philippines, Arch was quick to allocate funds, along with the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Having that integrated approach to a charitable partnership is not something that he had experienced before, Palmer said, and it speaks to the collaborative nature of what ShelterBox is doing – and why more organisations should look to align themselves with this charity.

“We’re very lucky that the nature of the insurance market is itself collaborative,” he said. “Compared to other industries, we’re much more used to working together- as evidenced by IUAD which is a great example of where the insurance industry has collaborated. It’s something that we do well. I think ShelterBox is a wonderful example of where you’ve got thematic alignment with what our industry does and is also a wonderful cause.

“I would personally love to see many more of our partners and peers in the industry getting involved. So, I would 100% recommend this.”

ShelterBox provides emergency shelter and other essential items to families who have lost their homes to disasters. The charity is currently supporting people affected by conflict in Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, and Mozambique. It’s also helping people in Pakistan after monsoon flooding left large swathes of the country underwater, and people displaced by the most severe drought in East Africa for forty years. For more information about ShelterBox visit


Related Stories

Keep up with the latest news and events

Join our mailing list, it’s free!