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. To help these small companies stay afloat, Yelp is enabling people to donate money directly via GoFundMe.
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 that let businesses 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 an up to 85% drop in interest as cities have encouraged social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But as layoffs and pay cuts cripple the workforce, small businesses are also in danger of going under.
“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 in hard-hit categories — including restaurants, nightlife, beauty, and fitness. A new “donate” icon will be visible at the bottom, meaning that anyone who searches for their favorite noodle joint will be encouraged to help them stay solvent.
While many businesses have adapted to the COVID-19 crisis by ramping up their delivery and takeaway operations or turning to virtual versions of their respective services, thousands will need some form of assistance to survive the pandemic.
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 must have outlets in fewer than five locations.)
Moreover, Yelp’s charitable arm, the Yelp Foundation, alongside Intuit QuickBook and GoFundMe are pledging to match $1.5 million in donations with an up to $500 matching grant per eligible business as part of their new “small business relief fund,” and they expect more companies to contribute to the fund soon.