We welcome back Maria Lilly, who is discussing the ways many businesses are giving to relief efforts in Japan.
The crisis in Japan has caught the attention of the entire world. As the Japanese search for survivors, struggle to control nuclear plants, and face the daunting challenge of reconstruction, governments around the world are trying to determine the potential impact of radiation on their own shores while corporations address manufacturing supply chain concerns. The global capital markets have also been on a roller-coaster ride since the earthquake and tsunami struck, creating worries that the global economic recovery could be further stalled.
But what has also been most striking is the humanitarian response — and how it has differed vastly from other recent tragedies.
As the third largest economy in the world, Japan has benefited from its critical role in the global economy. The business community, with an increasing emphasis on social responsibility programs, has been quick to react. Data compiled by the Foundation Center reports that U.S. Foundations and corporate giving programs have already committed more than $150 million in the form of both major grants and employee matching gifts. American companies including Coca Cola, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, General Electric and Wal-Mart are among the biggest donors, each committing to multi-million dollar contributions.
Conversely, Japan’s economic prowess has seemingly worked against it in terms of individual donations. According to an early tally by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, donations to nonprofit Japanese relief organizations reached about $25 million within the first four days post the crisis, a total far below the more than $150 million raised to assist Haiti for the same period last year.
As a result, a number of efforts have been developed to motivate individual giving. First, there’s the ever-present celebrity factor. In addition to actors who have publicly pledged financial support, the performer Lady Gaga has designed “ ” bracelets with all proceeds going to relief efforts.
There are “sister communities” in New York Times, under the auspices of , some 600 American cities have 2,000 such partnerships with communities in 136 countries, including 188 sister city relationships with Japan.that have been mobilized to raise money and supplies for their Japanese counterparts. According to The
Restaurant communities around the country are also playing their part. From San Francisco to New York, restaurateurs are participating in “Dine for Japan Relief” where on select dates proceeds are donated to organizations caring for the earthquake and tsunami victims.
But perhaps most encouragingly, a number of corporations have created cause-marketing programs to encourage their customers to donate. Here are just a few examples:
- and xhave each offered their frequent flier customers the opportunity to donate $100 in exchange for 500 free miles (as a UAL mileage plus customer, I typically receive 1 mile for every $1 spent so this is a significant multiple).
- The gaming company Direct2Drive, along with its partners, is donating $1 for every game sold to support emergency relief efforts, during a select period of time.
- Similarly, is giving 5% of all sales of their web development tools to the American Red Cross’s Japan fund, also during a select period of time.
- The announced they will donate $1 for every ticket sold to their Sunday, April 3rd game against the Seattle Mariners. The game will feature two of baseball’s biggest Japanese stars, Oakland’s Hideki Matsui and Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki, with proceeds going to the Red Cross.
- And there is , which in addition to matching employee gifts, is matching $1, $5, and $10 customer donations made at its retail locations.
It would be great if everyone could just reach into their pockets and give a little. But these are hard times and Americans have long been among the most generous people on the planet. It’s great to see how individuals, groups, and especially corporate players have upped the ante in creating incentives to get people to give.
What do you think?
Maria Lilly is Principal of MJ Lilly Associates LLC, a strategic communications consultancy. She has her own blog at [email protected].and can be reached at