Businesses across just about every industry are feeling the pain of the COVID-19 pandemic, with workers forced to stay at home and consumers on lockdown. But while trillion-dollar companies such as Apple have sufficient capital to survive, the same can’t be said for smaller businesses — particularly those that rely on footfall. And that is why Yelp is embracing crowdfunding to enable people to support local companies by making it easier to donate money directly to them.
The announcement comes less than a week after Yelp launched a $25 million relief fund and rolled out a host of new features, including a contact-free delivery option and banner alerts for businesses to announce adjusted opening hours or temporary closures.
According to Yelp data, “consumer interest” in restaurants has dropped 67% since March 10, while yoga studios, breweries, and other local businesses have experienced up to 85% drop in interest as cities have pushed social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But although many consumers themselves will be feeling the pinch, as layoffs and pay cuts cripple the workforce, Yelp will now allow customers to donate money to their favorite local businesses via GoFundMe.
“Many businesses have been required to temporarily close, making it seemingly impossible to continue to pay their staff and cover rent,” Yelp wrote in a blog post today. “Fortunately, loyal customers want to help them weather this unprecedented crisis and are looking for ways to make an immediate impact.”
Moving forward, GoFundMe campaigns will automatically be added to Yelp pages for businesses including restaurants, nightlife, and beauty and fitness. A new “donate” icon will be visible at the bottom, meaning that anyone who searches for their favorite noodle joint nearby will be encouraged to help them stay afloat.
While many businesses have adapted to the coronavirus crisis through ramping up their delivery and take-away operations, or turning to virtual versions of their respective services, the fact of the matter is thousands of companies rely on physical footfall, be that through commuters on their way to work or people coming home from the gym. With cities on lockdown, it is simply impossible for businesses to replace that custom at such short notice.
The fundraisers will appear on Yelp pages belonging to businesses in the hardest hit areas of the U.S. from today, and will gradually be extended to all eligible businesses across the country in the coming days — to qualify, businesses much have outlets in fewer than five locations.
Moreover, Yelp’s charitable arm, the Yelp Foundation and GoFundMe are pledging to match $1 million in donations with up to a $500 matching grant per eligible business as part of a new “small business relief fund,” though they expect more companies to contribute to the fund soon.