Cour Collaborative, LLC

How to Start an Employee Relief Fund as a Small Business

Creating an Employee Relief Fund for Small Businesses on a Limited Budget

As a small business owner with financial constraints, offering traditional healthcare benefits might be challenging. However, there are alternative ways to support and care for your employees. One way Cour Collaborative is attempting to do this is by establishing an Employee Relief Fund. Our goal is to provide a safety net for our team in times of need, fostering loyalty and enhancing their well-being.

Here are some steps you can take to start your own Employee Relief Fund (ERF) and how we chose to implement ours:

  1. Assess Financial Feasibility:

    1. Budget Considerations: Review your financial standing to determine how much you can allocate to your ERF. Set a realistic and sustainable budget that aligns with your business’ revenue.

      If your existing margins don’t offer the wiggle room to implement an ERF without raising prices, you can consider doing what we did: we started charging a 10% ERF fee on top of our service charges and chose to be transparent with our clients about what the fee was for. It’s been very well received with many of our clients not only happy to pay, but choosing to implement their own ERF.

    2. Fundraising Opportunities: Explore creative ways to fundraise for the relief fund. Consider organizing events, crowdfunding campaigns, or collaborating with community partners to raise additional funds. We haven’t opted to go this route for ourselves, but that may change as we grow.
  2. Define the Purpose and Criteria:

    1.  Define Your ERF’s Purpose: Is it for medical emergencies, unexpected expenses, or personal crises? Clearly communicate the fund’s scope to your employees.

      Our ERF is currently defined as covering

      unexpected expenses related to health, home, and caregiving responsibilities. But as a very small, single-owner business, there’s a little more flexibility to use our own discretion if an employee experiences a need seemingly outside of this scope.
    2. Eligibility Criteria: Set specific eligibility criteria for employees to access the relief fund. Consider factors like length of employment, work hours, and financial need to ensure equitable distribution.

      In our case, we have no restrictions on length of employment or whether someone is full-time or part-time. But the future requirements of this program may look different as we grow.

  3. Transparent Communication:

    1. Employee Awareness: Communicate the existence and objectives of the ERF to all employees. Transparently outline the application process and the type of assistance available.

      We include information about this program in our onboarding contract and documents and include reminders of this program with information on how to apply in our weekly one-on-one meeting documents.


    2. Emphasize Confidentiality: Assure employees that their privacy will be respected throughout the application and disbursement process.


      Since we’re a tiny business, I (Paula) personally receive and review all applications and don’t discuss who applied, for what reason, and whether they were approved or not with anyone other than the applicant. I also choose to keep the balance of the ERF account private so there is no chance of whispers about who may have received assistance when the fund balance reduces.
  4. Application and Disbursement Process:

    1. Streamlined Application: Develop a straightforward application process to reduce administrative burden. Request necessary documentation to verify financial need.

      We have a simple Google Form asking for applicant information, why they’re applying, what amount they’re requesting, when they need the money, and a few other details. Regardless of who the applicant is and how much we may trust them, we always require documentation of some sort regarding their need. We aim to make a decision within 24 business hours of the applicant’s request.


    2. Fair Allocation: Create a fair and consistent disbursement process to ensure that the fund is utilized appropriately and reaches those in genuine need.

      We may not always be able to provide everything the applicant is asking for, and we try to be very clear about that in our onboarding and application documents. But we do our best so we can keep the amazing talent we have happy, healthy, and here.

  5. Non-Monetary Support:

    1. Wellness Programs: Implement wellness programs that promote physical and mental well-being, further supporting your team’s overall health.

      We offer to cover the cost (up to $200) for our employees to visit with a mental health or personal growth professional of their choosing once per quarter. For each employee, this is less than $1,000 per year and is tax deductible.


    2. Emotional Assistance: Offer emotional support to employees facing challenges, fostering a supportive workplace culture.

      In addition to our quarterly mental health or growth professional stipend, we have an “unwell” policy. When an employee says they’re unwell, we encourage them to take the time they need to feel well again while also offering to reimburse the cost (again, up to $200) of meeting with a doctor or mental health professional. This time off does not count against their PTO balance.

  6. Monitor and Adapt:

    1. Regular Review: Continuously evaluate the ERF’s impact and effectiveness. Solicit feedback from employees to make improvements if necessary.


    2. Adapt to Changing Circumstances: Be prepared to adjust the fund’s scope and criteria based on changes in your business or external factors.

We Help Businesses Find & Manage the Best Talent

We specialize in helping growing businesses invest in the right people and successfully utilize their team. Call or text us at (512) 703-0773 or email us at to help strengthen your team.

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