[Editor's Note: One silver lining during the COVID-19 period is that some brands, organizations and individuals are attempting to offset the difficulties with acts of kindness. In the article below, originally published March 13, 2020, PRNEWS editor Seth Arenstein described and listed early examples of large brands doing good. Since that time, PRNEWS decided to add to the list periodically with additional examples of noteworthy activities from groups of all sizes. We welcome you to send us your examples. Contact: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.]
It’s a new normal for the country. You can consider the health precautions—such as periodic hand washing and social distancing—and the cancellations as burdens. Yet consider the upside: The U.S. is fortunate in that it can benefit from other countries’ experiences, possibly helping to lessen the virus’s impact here.
For brands, a new baseline is also forming. What eventually becomes standard practice in CSR is uncertain, yet trends are coalescing. Some brands are stepping up, others are standing pat, at least for the moment.
Preferring to look at COVID-19 as a great opportunity for CSR, we’ve noticed a bevy of large brands doing good. These kind acts likely earn double reputation points. Doing good is welcome always. Foregoing some revenue in the face of economic uncertainty, now that should really benefit reputation.
Some companies and organizations are doing good internally, others externally. For example, Shopify is giving each of its employees a $1000 stipend to buy supplies to work from home. A church in Maryland voted to continue to pay its musicians despite cancelling worship services.
Companies and organizations acting this way "will see advantages...in the long term," says Deb Gabor, CEO, Sol Marketing. Goodwill, she adds, will extend to them "in spades."
Such actions, adds Amy Power of the Power Group, are becoming table stakes.
On the other hand, "opportunistic and uncouth" brands that are "co-opting this disaster for their benefit will find themselves in a world of hurt," Gabor says.
Below, a sampling of large companies doing good things:
- The NY Times and other media outlets have taken down paywalls blocking coronavirus stories. The Times and USA Today are offering free coronavirus newsletters. LinkedIn also is making certain resources available gratis.
- CVS is waiving its delivery fee on prescriptions. This will allow people who might have the virus, or be at high risk of contracting it, to stay home, per the CDC’s recommendation.
- U-Haul is offering 30 days of free storage to college students who need to quickly vacate their dorms.
- FCC chief Ajit Pai urged internet service providers (ISP) to take measures that ensure customers won't lose their connection despite an inability to pay for it. Some ISPs will offer free internet access or reduced-cost access to low-income families. In addition, several ISPs will make hot spots available to all and AT&T waived data caps.
- Chinese e-commerce billionaire Jack Ma is donating 1 million face masks and 500,000 test kits to the US.
- Several NBA stars and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban are pitching in to help arena employees.
- Amazon is donating $5 million to help small businesses around its headquarters cope with the expected slowdown.
- Similarly, Facebook and Google, among others, are donating funds to help Silicon Valley communities.
- In addition, Facebook will send $20 million to WHO, CDC and the UN Foundation as they battle the virus.
More examples of doing good during COVID-19 (Begun March 17, 2020)
- Ford launched an ad campaign to raise awareness around its program to provide assistance to customers during the virus.
- Media pitching guru Michael Smart opened to the public one of his exclusive Inner Circle webinars. The March 18 session's topic was how to make it through an economic downturn as a PR pro. See March 19 coverage of the webinar.
- 3BL Media is waiving fees for CSRwire releases from nonprofits relating to coronavirus.
- MLB and the MLB Players Association donated $1 million to Feeding America and Meals on Wheels. In addition, every MLB team donated $1 million each to aid stadium workers. The Detroit Tigers was the first club to pledge $1 million.
- Facebook pledged $100 million to 30,000 small businesses.
- The Bloomberg Foundation pledged $40 million to fight the virus globally, mainly in Africa.
- Uber Eats and Grubhub waived delivery fees on meals from select independent restaurants in the US and Canada. This is designed to ease financial burdens. In addition, Grubhub waived commission fees.
- Locast, the nonprofit that streams local TV stations, will allow customers who can’t afford the voluntary donation to receive interruption-free service for 30 days. Local TV news is critical during coronavirus, Locast said. Send an email to email@example.com for details.
- Several arts groups are presenting concerts online, including the Taipei Chinese Orchestra. The March 21 program of Taiwanese ballads was designed to assuage "public anxiety" over coronavirus, the group said. Other organizations, such as the world-renowned Metropolitan Opera, are streaming previous performances gratis.
- Several examples of doing good from the literary world include Johns Hopkins University Press offering free access to 97 journals and 1,400 books. In addition, more than 50 authors will take part in a virtual book festival for children, May 1-2.
- As noted above, baseball and basketball pros have stepped up significantly. Here's a terrific list of athletes who've done good during this time, courtesy of ESPN.
- Meal kit Freshly and Nestlé will donate $500,000 to Meals on Wheels America. The donation will help continue food delivery to seniors.
- PRSA is opening select resources to non-members, including certain webinars. In addition, it created a resources page with a variety of free assets.
- Tito's Vodka, which sent messages urging people not to use its product...as hand sanitizer, is donating $2 million to groups providing "assistance to those affected by the current pandemic" in the restaurant and service industries. Immediately, $1 million will go to: CORE, USBG Foundation, Southern Smoke and World Central Kitchen. An additional $1 million will go to organizations as "we uncover further needs...this is only the beginning...we will be supporting other local efforts," Tito's said on Instagram March 20. [Update: Tito's says its distilleries now will make AND donate 24 tons of sanitizer.]
- A tweet from Apple CEO Tim Cook seemed to confirm VP Mike Pence's March 21 claim that the company is donating 2 million industrial masks to health care workers.
- MLB's Pittsburgh Pirates sent 400 pizzas to health care workers at Allegheny General Hospital. A pair of area pizzerias converged to produce the pies. Pirates staff delivered them. Apparently, the bucs don't stop there. Pirates players plan to send coffee to firehouses.
- Another food-related good deed: Former Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) joined Ben's Deli and United Way of Long Island to send food to health care staff in hospitals. Despite the program's name, Chicken Soup for Health Care Responders, it will deliver more than Jewish liquid penicillin. Ben's will deliver free its cold cut sandwiches, salads and soups (packaged to avoid contamination) to hospitals in Nassau and Suffolk counties. In self-quarantine, Rep. Israel was eating take-out from Ben’s Deli when the inspiration for the program hit him.
- A third food-related effort: Butchershop, a San Francisco creative agency, launched feedtheline.org, which raises funds that are sent to struggling restaurants to provide meals for healthcare professionals.
- Prudential Financial donated a stockpile of 153,000 face masks and respirators to NJ.
- Bacardi Limited launched #RaiseYourSpirits, an effort to help support staff of closed bars and restaurants. On March 24, Bacardi and its brands (Bacardi rum, vermouth and wines, Grey Goose vodka, Patrón tequila, Bombay gin and Dewar's Scotch whisky) pledged $3 million to support various foundations helping hospitality workers. Last week, Patrón donated $1 million. Bacardi said this is "just the start" of its support.
- Megan Driscoll, founder/CEO of NY PR firm EvolveMKD, is a triple threat in the best sense. Not only is she donating to a different virus-related cause each week and urging her staff to donate, she's pledged to give to staffers' preferred charities/nonprofits.
- Twitter pledged to donate $1 one million to the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Women’s Media Foundation. These funds will be used to ensure the organizations can continue their work despite the new economic strains.
- Actors Jennifer Garner and Amy Adams are reading stories to home-bound children to help raise funds for Save the Children and No Kid Hungry. Donations will help the two organizations ensure children in need are fed while schools are closed.
- Mattress maker Serta Simmons Bedding through Relief Bed International will donate 10,000 mattresses to NY-area hospitals and temporary medical facilities. In addition to shortages of masks and ventilators, NY hospitals are concerned about a looming bedding shortage as confirmed coronavirus cases rise rapidly. Serta Simmons asked other bedding companies to join it in this effort.
- A trio of do-good offers to for health care workers and first responders. Starbucks is offering free coffee to health care workers and other front-line workers, such as police and fire fighters, through May. Hertz is offering free car rentals to health care workers through April 30. With transport and coffee needs filled, brands turned to foot care. The move produced a good lesson: have enough supplies on hand when you make a donation. A favorite of medical staff, Crocs promised to give away clogs. It reached its limit of 10,000 pair in days. Now it's asking medical personnel to line up virtually at noon daily on its site for a chance to receive a pair. Similarly, Allbirds said it would donate Wool Runners, another favorite of healthcare workers. In four days it donated $500,000 worth, its limit. It has since pivoted to buy one-get one free.
- TikTok pledged $10 million to the World Health Organization to support its coronavirus efforts.
- The NFL and the NFL Players Association said collectively they've donated some $35 million to fight coronavirus.
- Johns Hopkins University is seeking volunteers to assemble plastic face shields for inclusion in Personal Protection Packs for healthcare workers. The fanny packs, donated by Under Armour, are used at Johns Hopkins Hospital, but Hopkins is sharing its shield-making know-how with other health care facilities. Volunteers are needed through April 10. Sign up online.
- Starbucks said it's donating $3+ million to various COVID-19 efforts, it said April 1. The Starbucks Foundation will contribute $1 million to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund in support of the World Health Organization (WHO). $1 million will go to Give2Asia to fund front-line medical workers in China. The last $1 million will go to groups including: United Way, the NYC Police Foundation, the Food Bank for NYC and Robin Hood’s COVID Response Fund, among others.
- Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and his wife Aileen donated $5 million to help Philadelphia students get laptops now that schools are closed.
- Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg and wife Dr. Priscilla Chan pledged $25 million to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to explore treatment options for the virus.
- Amazon chief Jeff Bezos pledged $100 million to food banks.