How Harvey and Irma Proved the Power of Corporate Philanthropy

Posted on Posted in Media Relations, Public Relations

By Alex Altman

They rushed in from all corners of the country, hauling boats, medical supplies and drinking water. They knocked on doors, waded through contaminated water, and put their lives on the line to help complete strangers.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma provided another forceful reminder that calamity brings out the best in people. And apparently, Corporate America, too.

Over the last month, businesses of all sizes have stepped up in a big way, collectively donating an estimated $157 million toward the hurricane relief efforts. At least 30 companies have pledged $1 million or more.

While humanitarianism is all the motivation businesses needed to open their pockets, they will gladly accept the PR points they get in return.

Over the last couple weeks, the news has been filled with feel-good stories about companies contributing to the relief effort. The positive exposure could have a lasting impact, and in some cases even exceed the monetary amount given. Studies show consumers — notably Millennials — prefer to work for and patronize businesses that give back to society.

Here are a few companies already seeing the PR impact of their contributions.

Gallery Furniture: The local mattress store became a household name after it converted two of its Houston stores into makeshift shelters. Owner Jim McIngvale (AKA “Mattress Mack”) was invited to appear on CNN, CBS and ABC. His Tweet announcing the shelters was retweeted more than 23,000 times.

Dell: The tech giant received a groundswell of support after its CEO, Michael Dell, pledged $36 million to the Harvey relief efforts. Mr. Dell and his wife announced the donation on ABC’s Good Morning America, and earned headlines in the New York Times, Forbes and several other major publications.

PetSmart: The retailer committed $2 million to aid in the rescue and relocation of thousands of pets affected by the hurricanes. The company’s charitable endeavors were touted in Fortune and several other news outlets, and its tweet announcing it would donate 40,000 pounds of pet food to the Houston Food Bank was its top performing post of the year.

Dick’s Sporting Goods: The Pittsburgh-based company pledged $5.5 million to the hurricane relief efforts, including $3.5 million worth of clothing and $2 million “to rebuild and refurbish youth sports programs and facilities” in affected areas. Its announcement was picked up in USA Today, Business Insider and other outlets.

LuminAID: The Shark Tank-backed company, which specializes in solar-powered inflatable lights, donated 2,500 lights to victims of Hurricane Irma. Just a week earlier, it sent 1,500 lights to Texas — enough to illuminate about 4.5 football fields. LuminAID’s donation was shared on CNBC and received plenty of buzz on social media.

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