In a year full of crises, as 2020 surely was, it behooves businesses and foundations to do and give even more to help their communities meet the challenges they face. At the Yelp Foundation we worked diligently in the past year to find more opportunities to invest — both in the organizations we already support, and in additional ones as well. And, like everyone else, we also learned to adapt to the many unforeseen challenges in this “new world”.
Early on in the pandemic shutdown, Charity Navigator and Reuters News partnered to survey the impacts of the economic fallout on nonprofits. Even at that very early stage, 83 percent of respondents reported extreme financial hardship, and 64 percent reported needing to cut their programs, while 23 percent saw an increase in the demand for their programs.
Over the last year, the Yelp Foundation worked to help address these challenges, and learned to be even more open and flexible in the ways we give.
Helping Small Businesses in Crisis
The impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been devastating for small, local businesses that would normally do the majority of their business in person. In March 2020, the Yelp Foundation and GoFundMe.org (the latter is the charitable and advocacy arm of GoFundMe) pledged to match up to $1 million in donations to help independent businesses to start fundraisers and accept donations through their Yelp pages.
The Power of Employee Giving
The summer of 2020 re-ignited an overdue conversation on the realities and effects of racial injustice in our country. Many of us knew that we could not go back to business as usual when the protests, tweets, and news cycle died down.
To start, the Yelp Foundation donated $500,000 to the Equal Justice Initiative and NAACP Legal Defense Fund — two organizations whose work is uplifting and empowering Black communities across the country. The Yelp Foundation also built on its employee-matching program by raising the donation matching cap from $1,000 to $10,000 and double matching the Yelp employee donations made in the month of June to any of the following Black-led and Black-serving organizations:
- Black Futures Lab
- Center for Policing Equity
- Common Future
- Equal Justice Initiative
- Know Your Rights Camp
- NAACP Legal Defense Fund
- National Black Justice Coalition
- The Bail Project
- The Movement for Black Lives
We were impressed with the generosity of Yelp employees. They donated more than $335,000 to all the organizations listed above, and those donations were double-matched by the Yelp Foundation to bring the total contribution to more than $1.5 million. We’re proud that Yelp employee efforts will help build Black political power, improve Black communities, and lay the foundation for lasting change in our country.
A key part of the Yelp Foundation’s mission is to promote a culture of philanthropy among Yelp employees. Throughout 2020, we invited leaders of various nonprofit organizations to tell employees more about the important work they’re doing. Check out our events here: Nonprofit Talks at Yelp in 2020.
Celebrating our 2020 Grantees
Because so many of the nonprofit organizations we support lost out on much of their major revenue-generating activities in the spring due to COVID-19 lockdowns, one of the biggest changes we made this year was to move up our grant cycle from November to July (the start of the fiscal year for most non-profits). Most of these organizations had to quickly pivot to virtual fundraising without the experience or resources needed to make it happen; earlier dispersing of funds, we hoped, would help.
And, as in 2019, we continued to reduce operational challenges for our grantees as much as possible by wiring money the same day we committed the funds. We also continue to commit unrestricted funds, and reduce any grant reporting to a simple, short phone call with each grantee.
We are excited to announce our 2020 grantees and highlight the good work they’re doing in San Francisco, Chicago, Washington D.C., New York, Phoenix, and beyond.
San Francisco, CA:
- 826 Valencia: Supports creative and expository writing skills for underserved youth.
- One Degree: Offers a platform for low income families to find, manage, and review nonprofit and social services.
- La Cocina: Cultivates low income food entrepreneurs as they formalize and grow their businesses.
- Free Spirit Media: Amplifies the voices of underserved youth through hands-on media production experience.
- Chicago Literacy Alliance: Works to eradicate illiteracy in Chicago.
- i.c. stars: Offers technology-based workforce development and leadership training program for low-income adults and then connects them with career opportunities
- The Literacy Lab: Provides low-income children with individualized reading instruction to improve their literacy skills.
- Washington Area Community Investment Fund: Promotes equity and economic opportunity in underserved neighborhoods in the Washington, D.C. region.
- ByteBack: Alleviates poverty by providing students with a clear pathway to a family-sustaining career.
New York, NY:
- Hot Bread Kitchen: Creates economic opportunity through careers in food through offering culinary training and incubating low income food entrepreneurs
- Freedom of the Press Foundation’s Press Freedom Tracker: Documents press freedom violations in the United States to protect, defend, and empower public-interest journalists and freedom of speech.
- 826NYC: Develops creative and writing skills of underprivileged youth.
- Local First: Provides underserved business owner communities with funds and expertise.
- Seed Spot: Supports impact-driven entrepreneurs in schools and communities.
- Fresh Start Women’s Foundation: Helps women transform their lives through education, resources, and support.
Although last year created a huge disruption of life as we knew it, it also opened us up to ways that we could be more innovative in how we confront challenges. Moving forward, we can use the lessons of 2020 as a guidepost to remaining more agile in how we look at the ways we give back to our communities.