Philanthropic companies restore my faith in humanity

Due to my reoccurring dream about Justin Bieber renting out my grandparents’ house on Airbnb, I’ve always known the home-stay company to be innately good.

Today I learned that Airbnb is offering free urgent accommodations for people whose homes were compromised during the rampant wildfires near Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The website reads, “All service fees are waived for those affected by the disaster and checking in between November 28, 2016, and December 13, 2016.” It then lists “I need a place to stay” or “I can offer my space for free.”

This disaster-response program helps people all across the world. In addition to Tennessee, it’s helping individuals affected by the New Zealand earthquake, North Carolina wildfires and Hurricane Otto in Costa Rica.

Because it uses its services for good, my appreciation for Airbnb has increased tenfold.

These days, most companies seem evil in the eyes of American consumers. It’s all about money.

It’s no wonder the University of North Carolina’s head basketball coach Roy Williams said he wants his “wine-and-cheese crowd” to act more like IU fans — most seats for North Carolina games are sold to the highest bidders who prefer pricey bottles of Cabernet to plastic handles of Karkov.

Likewise, most companies choose to conserve funds and keep on the straight and narrow with their business plans by not having cost overruns and revenue shortfalls.

Although I understand this, I’m a firm believer that part of owning a business involves giving back to your consumer base, however big or small that network of individuals is. Companies should be helping sew together the fabric of their communities.

Ignoring current events to remain neutral and earn the maximum amount of profit is something many frown upon these days. It’s not enough simply to advocate via social campaigns — people want to see a company put its money where its mouth is.

It’s far too uncommon to see a business pose a call to action. Brands like Patagonia, which donated all $10 million in Black Friday sales to grassroots groups fighting to protect natural resources, restore my faith in charitable company models. Similarly, Ben and Jerry’s encourages a comparable message with their foundation, which encourages “greening the 
grassroots.”

These businesses are being noticed for a reason. As a customer — and a lover of fleece, Phish Food and affordable French flats — a for-profit business that operates through a philanthropic lens is very attractive.

Although philanthropy isn’t an instant brand booster, social media has created a far more translucent consumer relationship. A good product can certainly get you far, but it won’t land you a viral Upworthy video on Facebook.

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