Giving back—it’s good for the world and it’s good for business. And there’s never been a more important time to do it.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us. Right now, millions of people are grieving loved ones while living in fear and struggling to stay afloat—physically, mentally, emotionally, financially. They’ve lost jobs, homes, businesses, and savings. Between food shortages, long periods of isolation, and a burgeoning global economic catastrophe, the present is dismal and the future looks bleak. It’s safe to say that this is the worst crisis of our lifetimes—and it could be months or even years before things get better.
If that sounds depressing, well, that’s because it is. The reality of our situation is objectively, undeniably terrible. You can sink down into your seat and despair (which I’ve certainly done at least once this week) or you can resolve to make it a little less terrible.
Assuming you’ve been fortunate enough to remain in business thus far, your company has the power to help your customers and community—and earn immeasurable benefits in doing so. By engaging in philanthropic giving, your business can boost its reputation, attract customers, drive loyalty, access networking opportunities, and maybe even save during tax time.
I’m not just talking about donating money. In fact, there are plenty of ways you can make as great or even greater an impact without spending a dime. Here are a few easy ways any company can give back:
1. Make In-Kind Contributions or Offer Pro Bono Services
If your organization is like most right now—particularly if it’s an early-stage company—you don’t have much cash to spare. But you may be wealthy in technology or human capital. Cash-strapped firms and startups can make in-kind contributions by offering their products and services for free or at discounted rates to people and institutions in need.
Consider how you could leverage your infrastructure, data platform, or employee skills to serve a local hospital, medical research team, or homeless shelter. Forward-thinking tech companies were doing this before the coronavirus pandemic, as TechRepublic reports:
“DataRobot, an artificial intelligence company, has an AI for Good program that works with educational institutes, hospitals, and environmental nonprofits.
The company shares technology, time, and resources with the organizations to make sure their machine learning applications generate real, long-term value.
Legacybox will help families in Southern California preserve memories from the holidays and throughout the year by donating $100,000 in digitizing kits to residents in communities at risk of wildfires. Residents can get slides, films, and audio recordings converted to digital format as a download, on a zip drive, or a DVD.
Ada, a marketing automation firm, partnered with a tech-centric nonprofit to develop the Chalmers chatbot designed for Toronto's homeless community. This service provides 24/7 access to information about where to get free meals and clothing as well as open shelter space.”
These solutions are not only useful, but innovative. In-kind contributions allow companies to try out different applications of their technology and expertise, potentially finding lucrative new business opportunities along the way.
2. Donate Unused Inventory and Materials
Sitting on a bunch of product you can’t sell because your storefront is closed? Have a warehouse full of stuff you can’t use? Donate it!
Organizations of all kinds and sizes are giving their excess inventory, materials, and equipment to medical providers, food banks, and workers on the front lines. We’re not just talking about personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves, but things like food, shoes, iPads, bicycles, lotion, and more.
Some businesses, according to Wired, are going a step further and “using [their] relationships with suppliers in China to produce medical supplies at a reduced cost for health care workers, first responders, and essential businesses.” Which brings us to…
3. Team Up
Now is the time to tap into your relationships for good—or to forge powerful new relationships. Join forces with a vendor, investor, or even a competitor to scale your impact and collaboratively solve challenges your customers and others face.
TechCrunch recently shared a few examples of this kind of teamwork, including some cool cross-industry partnerships and community initiatives:
“Ali O’Grady founded greeting-card startup Thoughtful Human in 2017. The greeting cards tackle difficult topics, such as cancer, grief and, more recently, quarantine and the pandemic. Thoughtful Human has partnered with BetterHelp Therapy to offer a month of free virtual therapy through phone or text.
Coding Dojo has launched an initiative to connect its alumni group of coders to small businesses that need website development. Coders will take on projects, for no charge, like creating a website for that corner bodega or adding a delivery feature to existing websites.”
Check out some more examples of COVID-inspired pivots and partnerships here.
4. Alter Your Business Model
Speaking of pivots, you’ve probably heard about the breweries and distilleries producing hand sanitizer or the fashion brands making face masks.
How about the wine tasting company that launched remote tastings, shipping customers themed cases of bottles and providing printable tasting notes with food pairing suggestions?
What about the trucking company changing its logistics strategy to quickly restock grocery and retail shelves?
Some of these are drastic shifts in business processes, others are clever marketing strategies, but all are examples of companies decisively reacting to the crisis rather than merely hoping for the best. You might not be able to turn beer into hand sanitizer, or wine into digital wine, but you can tweak your product, service, staffing, support, and delivery models to better aid people in need.
Consider if you can lower your prices, accept late payments, move sales conversations online, extend your phone or chat support windows, offer something fun for kids and families stuck at home, or empower your customers with self-service tools.
5. Prioritize Your Most At-Risk Customers
By now, many supermarkets and retailers have instituted dedicated hours for seniors as well as people who are immunocompromised or living with disabilities. This is just one example of the ways in which businesses can look out for and accommodate their at-risk customers.
Think about if and how your company can demonstrate that you’re thinking about people in need. You could create a list of frequently asked questions about hygiene and safety at your business, for instance, or set up a financial resources page for customers who have lost their sources of income.
Depending on how much data you have about your customers, you could segment communication and services by age or location, prioritizing people who are elderly or live in areas hard-hit by the pandemic.
For those new to living online, you may want to develop articles, webinars, or videos that explain how to access your products or services digitally.
6. Educate and Inform Your Community
Remember: your customers are looking to you for leadership and comfort in this trying time. Be transparent, be vulnerable, and take responsibility in keeping people informed.
If you operate an “essential” business with one or more physical facilities still open, be sure to offer guidance to visitors on how to stay safe. Make sure information is clear, accurate, up-to-date, and—if possible—available in multiple languages.
No matter what kind of business you operate, you can provide friendly tips on staying healthy and safe, and use your website or social media presence to link to useful, relevant updates from healthcare experts and local authorities.
Share your expertise, whether it’s in bioengineering or mixing the perfect cocktail. We live in a world filled with noise—much of it trivial, inaccurate, or harmful—and we all owe it to each other to be good stewards of information.
On that note, we hope you found this blog post useful and are feeling inspired to give back. If you’re looking for more advice about running your business effectively during this challenging time, contact us.