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Inclusive Diversity & Equity

Answering the call. Disrupting the cycle. Shifting the narrative.

After decades of partnership to support domestic violence survivors, The Allstate Foundation and the National Domestic Violence Hotline forged a more collaborative relationship during COVID-19 when Hotline staff had to switch to remote work.

Woman with headset at a computer talking with hands up.

The Domestic Violence Hotline advocates shifted their work to remote in 2020 with the help of The Allstate Foundation.

July 7, 2023

"I finally feel like I know my worth; thank you for talking through everything with me."

That declaration by one domestic violence survivor echoes the sentiments of many who've been helped by the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

The Hotline gets nearly 3,000 calls, chats and text messages every day — and the volume is growing.

A bigger need in a time of uncertainty

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, staff at The Hotline knew that meant domestic violence survivors would be in closer and more frequent proximity to their abusers. This would introduce new challenges to their work. Like, potentially including survivors experiencing more severe abuse and having less opportunity to seek support. The Hotline had to keep their 24/7 operations running in a way they never had before: remotely.

"Because of the support from The Allstate Foundation, in a matter of 72 hours, we were able to completely move our operations to remote for the first time in our history without missing one single minute of supporting survivors. This experience brought our relationship with the Foundation to a different level, and without this fast-acting support we would not have been able to transition so smoothly," said Crystal Justice, chief external affairs officer at The Hotline.

The quick pivot to remote work for The Hotline's advocates and full team required more than $41,000 worth of equipment — monitors, keyboards, webcams and offsite tech support — all funded by the Foundation.

"From the technology standpoint, we had to get it right from the beginning since we are the only national 24-hour hotline for domestic violence. And it was a pretty flawless rollout because of the investment on the front end by the Foundation," Justice said.

Call volume to The Hotline decreased 6% in March 2020 compared to March 2019 because survivors were in such close quarters with those causing them harm. But when shelter-in-place orders began to lift in April 2020, call volume increased 15% compared to April 2019.

Today, volume is at historic highs for The Hotline.

"In the beginning of the pandemic, nobody knew how long it was going to last," said Sharisse Kimbro, relationship abuse program officer for The Allstate Foundation. "The Foundation kept in close contact with those at The Hotline as they communicated with us to determine what the broad impact would be. We saw that there was a need for us to offer more support for them to be able to answer the calls and provide the help."

In the last 18 months, The Hotline has added more than 100 program services staff — including advocates who answer the calls, chats and texts — and reduced call wait time from 30 minutes to 7.5 minutes.

"Because of these investments we were able to make in staffing and technology, we're not only serving more people, we're serving more people faster, which is so important when you think about survivor safety," Justice said.

Since the initial $41,000 investment, the Foundation has funded more than $500,000 in support of The Hotline and its work to end domestic violence and support survivors as they pursue lives free from abuse.

But with thousands of calls and texts pouring in each day, The Hotline still needs more help.

A stronger relationship for stronger support

"During the pandemic, in the midst of what felt like pure chaos, something very special happened," Justice said. "We started to work very closely together in monitoring how the pandemic was impacting survivors, the ways The Allstate Foundation wanted to make an impact as a funder, the ways in which The Hotline was supporting survivors and what we were seeing transpire across the country."

The Allstate Foundation relied on The Hotline's expertise to determine what support was needed, beyond just money. The two organizations created tools to help bring awareness to domestic violence, elevate the voices of survivors and promote healthy relationships.

"The work that we do is really interconnected," Kimbro said. "We really want to listen to survivors and give our resources based on what the real need is versus what we think it is. We don't dictate how our resources should be used. Instead, we trust the expertise of our nonprofits to tell us how to direct our investments to have the biggest impact."

This evolving approach — trust-based philanthropy and equitable grantmaking — shifts the traditional power dynamics between funders and grantees. At the end of 2022, the Foundation provided $1.25 million in unrestricted grants to non-profit partners to use as they saw fit; $950,000 went to partners working to end relationship abuse including The Hotline.

One outcome from this collaboration: a parent discussion guide on It began as a request from Allstate employees who wanted more tools to help them have in-depth conversations with their families about cultivating healthy relationships and preventing abuse.

"We've come together multiple times since the pandemic, not only in a traditional way in that The Allstate Foundation has funded us and made our services possible, but in very non-traditional ways as thought partners," Justice said. "We've developed something that's really creative and unique, which is helping to elevate and even change the conversation when it comes to domestic violence in this country."

A first-of-its-kind training

Continuing to partner on survivor-centered work, The Hotline and the Foundation recently introduced an on-demand training program for Allstate employees to identify signs of domestic violence and ways to best support the survivors they encounter.

The first part of the training was piloted virtually with Allstate's Catastrophe Response team before the start of the 2023 hurricane season.

"We're developing a layered approach to this training," Justice said. "The first step is to develop a very successful foundational training, and then to add in-depth nuanced training for specific teams and the ways in which they may be supporting employees and customers in specific instances in their life where they are at risk for higher rates or increased severity of domestic violence."

For Justice, the training is another example of how the Foundation is "walking the walk."

"It's not just about philanthropy, but they want to change the culture of their corporation and how they are supporting survivors," she said.

A healthy partnership that continues to grow

Both organizations agree there's more work to do.

Not just in supporting more survivors through 1-on-1 conversations but advancing the narrative of the empowered survivor across society.

"A narrative shift for culture change is critical to disrupting the cycle and reducing the prevalence of relationship abuse. Whether through supporting The Hotline's short-film tour for 'The Call' or deepening our investment in The Hotline's work in healthy relationships, we recognize this is a monumental undertaking that we cannot accomplish alone," Kimbro said.

"I think it becomes greater than The Hotline and The Allstate Foundation," Justice said. "It's about the good we can do together and how we can shift outcomes for survivors throughout this country, but also about how we can shift things in the philanthropic space. I think our partnership models what it's like to have a healthy relationship with your funder, and we are all about healthy relationships."

Support through service, help beyond The Hotline

Man with hoodie and woman in orange shirt smiling in front of packing boxes

Allstate employee Megan McNiven asked if her team could do something together at their office in Chicago.

The call to support survivors is getting answered in other ways, too.

Wanting an in-person option for their quarterly Allstate Protection Products and Services (PPS) meeting, Megan McNiven, business design manager for Alternative Distribution, asked if the team could do something together at their office in Chicago.

With help from The Allstate Foundation and United Way of Metro Chicago, the Protection Products and Services team created a volunteer effort where employees packed hygiene kits for domestic violence survivors in the Chicago area. The employees built connections with each other while giving back.

"Personal hygiene is an important part of feeling safe and healthy. We originally agreed to pack 100 kits, but we learned from our partners at United Way that there has been an influx of individuals fleeing for safety and coming to Chicago, so the need for hygiene kits is greater than we expected," said Allstate employee Carley Fredrickson, who led the initiative to create the kits.

The team packed 500 kits in 11 minutes.

"I was so impressed with how many people were excited and willing to do it. Every single person had a role, which I think adds a different level to the connection," McNiven said.

"Disrupting the cycle of domestic violence is something that The Allstate Foundation has stood for for a while, but for us to put together something that will get directly into the hands of the survivors and be able to help them in their current situation, I think that means so much. It seems small, but it's not small to them and can really make an impact," she said.

Working together for change

The Allstate Foundation has invested more than $90 million since 2005 to help survivors break free from their abusers. Now, we're taking a collaborative and proactive approach with our partners to not only disrupt the cycle of violence, but to change the narrative and prevent abuse before it starts.

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