In M Booth’s latest rendition of what’s around the corner as the Coronavirus pandemic continues, we’re exploring charitable donations. Many companies will be looking to help, but how should companies decide how to communicate these efforts? Should companies announce their charitable efforts proactively? Perhaps only to their employee and customer base? Should they discuss these efforts reactively—or at all?
There are no hard and fast rules, but here some things to consider:
What is the best way for a company to announce a donation?
A charitable donation is something a company should do because it is the right thing to do, which can make announcing it publicly seem opportunistic and self-congratulatory. For this reason, we tend to favor sharing the news of the donation by social post—not press release.
Of the major companies that have announced large-scale donations over the last few weeks, the majority have been done via the social media handles of their leaders, which we believe feels more personal and adds some humanity to the news. Here are some examples below. All of these announcements were subsequently been picked up by media after the post.
- Apple: CEO Tim Cook announced that Apple will donate millions of masks via a Twitter post
- Facebook: CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a donation via a Facebook post
- Tesla: CEO Elon Musk announced that he acquired ventilators to donate via Twitter
- Alibaba: Founder Jack Ma joined Twitter to announce his donation of test kits and masks via Twitter
What is the likelihood of employee backlash?
Will the company’s own employees be compensated if they are unable to work or if a facility, store, or factory is shut down? If a company announces a charitable donation and their own employees are feeling resentful due to lack of support, the climate will be ripe for backlash and public scrutiny. Companies should be wary of asking employees to donate during this uncertain time.
Could this external communication result in negative press?
It’s important to consider recent negative press surrounding companies that are appearing to put profits before people. If a company is going to tout its charitable efforts, it must be ready to be under the microscope.
If we share the news of a donation proactively, there is a risk that the announcement could be perceived as self-serving or not genuine. Here are potential questions from media that companies and brands must be prepared to address before making an announcement on a charitable donation or effort:
- Why so little of an amount? Are you putting a price tag on what this crisis means to you?
- Why did you give to X and not Y or Z?
- Don’t you always make these kinds of donations? What’s new here?
- What about your own employees?
- What is your policy on paying your hourly workers if they must self-quarantine or care for children, elderly relatives, or relatives who are immunocompromised? If your factory/store/facility shuts down?
- [If applicable] You make a shelf-stable product. Why not close your factories to keep your employees safe as other companies support shelter-in-place mandates?
Is the donation significant enough to warrant attention? Does it involve a call to action?
A public service announcement for consumers to get involved or to access much-needed support is more purposeful than a company touting a lump sum payment to one organization. An exception might be Walmart, which in a press release said it was committing $25 million to various organizations in an effort to slow the spread of the disease. Other companies with smaller commitments should keep their donations in perspective. As an industry leader that inspires others, Walmart earned the right to issue a press release.
For reference, here are recent news articles on this subject:
- Forbes: 50 Ways Companies Are Giving Back During The Coronavirus Pandemic
- WSJ: Financial Institutions Share Stockpiles of Face Masks With NYC Hospitals
- Marketwatch: Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma’s foundation to donate coronavirus testing kits, masks to the U.S.
- NYT: The Man With 17,700 Bottles of Hand Sanitizer Just Donated Them
- Buzzfeed News: These Organizations Are Helping People Get Food And Medical Help During The Coronavirus Pandemic
- Today.com: Donate to kids left hungry by school coronavirus closures
- Women’s Day: 7 Ways You Can Help Others During The Coronavirus Outbreak
- Robb Report: How (and Where) to Donate Money During the Coronavirus Outbreak
- AdWeek: Facebook to Match Up to $20M in Donations for Coronavirus Relief Efforts
- NY Magazine: Donate To a Food Bank
We can partner with you to discuss or ideate any time. Simply email me at MargoS@mbooth.com.
SVP, Media/Issues & Crisis