Guest Post: Companies Work to #HelpBoston

Apr 19, 2013 8:00 AM ET

Things aren't really back to normal yet here in Boston. My office was open today, but the streets on two sides of the building are closed.  I went to a new café for lunch because all my favorites are still shut.  My friends who live right at the site of the second bomb - whose apartment a bunch of us were in at the time of Monday's events - are still staying with friends.  The streets around my office, a block from Copley Square, are crowded by oddly quiet. 

One thing that is normal, though, is the outpouring of support that we've come to expect in light of a traumatic event.  This is most evident, of course, in the tremendous efforts of the first responders, who certainly saved many lives on Monday.  It's evident in the #BostonHelp and #PrayforBoston hashtags on Twitter and in the tributes to the city that have taken over my Facebook feed for the last few days.  And of course, it's evident in the way the corporate community has leapt into action. 

Here are the trends I've been seeing in the corporate response to the explosions at Monday's Boston Marathon.  

Immediate Response  

In the immediate aftermath of the explosions, I saw a number of companies jump in to offer the assets they had available on hand, in order to serve immediate needs.  Google immediately launched its Google Person Finder service, to help people at the event communicate to people elsewhere that they were safe.  El Pelon Taqueria was one of a number of area restaurants that offered displaced individuals a place to go, along with free food and free wifi; several restaurants in the area surrounding the crime scene continue to offer free food to first responders.  AirBnB and a number of airlines announced on Twitter that they were waiving fees for people making last-minute travel changes due to the events, and Pooch Hotel, which boards dogs, tweeted that first responders could board for their animals free of charge so they could focus on relief efforts.  A local yoga studio tweeted that classes would be free on Tuesday, and two major local museums were also free that day - all three emphasized that they wanted to provide an opportunity for reflection and healing. 

One immediate response that I found striking was the number of companies that reached out to inspire and support their customers or employees.  My company has sent out a series of emails our employees to keep everyone up to date on the status of our Boston headquarters (which was closed for the Patriots' Day holiday), to share resources for employees in need, and to comfort employees and begin the process of healing together.  I think that was really important, but it's also something I expect of a well-run company.  What I didn't anticipate was the number of companies that reached out to me as an customer with a similar message.  The first such message I received was from Marathon Sports, whose Boylston Street sporting goods store was impacted by the explosions.  The email, with the subject line "Our City Is Strong," focused on the feelings the company's employees and so many customers are experiencing, the company's pride in its staff for the way they comported themselves during the crisis, and a commitment to move forward with the community - the Boston community and the running community - stronger than ever.  The email also provided links to relevant services, including places to donate, the missing persons hotline, and the police tips hotline.  I received similar emails from my gym and CitySports (another sporting goods store), both located within a few blocks of the explosion.  (I should probably note that I am unfortunately not as sporty as my inbox suggests.)   


I have also noticed that quite a few companies are hosting fundraisers to benefit victims of the explosions.  More than 50 local restaurants are donating a portion of tonight's (Wednesday's) proceeds to the Greg Hill Foundation, which will use the funds to benefit victims.  A group of breweries in the area are hosting a fundraising event tonight, as well.   RueLaLa is selling a tshirt that read "Tough Proud Brave Free Boston" and donating all net proceeds to the Emergency Medicine Fund at Massachusetts General Hospital.   

A few companies are also soliciting cash donations on behalf of recovery efforts.  Technology Underwriting Greater Good, an initiative "dedicated to bringing together technology companies, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists to help young people realize their full potential", has raised over $153,000 so far.  The New England Patriots Charitable Foundation is raising money for the One Fund Boston (details below); the Kraft Family, which owns the Patriots, is matching donations up to $100,000.  Similarly, LevelUp, the mobile payments company, will match funds donated through its up, up to $26,200.  The company has also enabled users to donate the coupons they earn to recover efforts.  Currently, LevelUp is directing funds to Children's Hospital Boston and the Red Cross. 

Corporate Giving 

We are starting to see companies making direct donations to nonprofits involved in responding to the explosions.  Most of this activity has centered around the One Fund Boston, established yesterday by Boston Mayor Tom Menino and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.  The One Fund, which will "help the people most affected by the tragic events that occurred in Boston on April 15, 2013," was created with an initial $1 million donation from John Hancock, a major marathon sponsor.  In the twenty-four hours since the Fund was created, it has collected more than $7 million in donations, including $1 million donations from AT&T, Bain Capital, and Partners HealthCare.  The One Fund is also raising money from individual donors, with more than 8,500 contributing so far.  Kenneth Feinberg, who oversaw similar funds after 9/11 and other events, will be the Fund's administrator.   

Separately, the Bruins and the National Hockey League are donating $250,000 - $100,000 from Jeremy Jacobs, the team's owner, and $50,000 each from the NHL, the NHL Player's Association, and TD Garden (the facility where the Bruins play).  The Bruins are also donating tickets to first responders and planned to honor victims and responders during tonight's game.  Twitter has donated its top promote tweet spot to the hashtag #OneBoston, which people are using to highlight inspirational stories and charitable efforts; the value of this donation (that is, the amount a company would pay for the spot for a day) is $200,000. 


Has your company contributed?  Share your activities with other corporate donors by submitting it to the US Chamber of Commerce's Business Civic Leadership Center, which is compiling a donations tracker.  I'd also love it if you leave a note in the comments. 

Looking for direction on your company's efforts?  The Center for Disaster Philanthropy provides advice on when, where, and how to give in the aftermath of disasters.  The Business Civic Leadership Center also provides a number of resources to companies seeking to support disaster relief efforts, and the Council on Foundations publishes "Disaster Grantmaking: A Practical Guide for Foundations and Corporations."  It also provides resources via a Disaster Resource Center.  The Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy has published a research report on lessons learned from past corporate disaster relief efforts.  Some time ago, I wrote an article for laying out the steps in developing a corporate disaster relief plan.  The article is old, but I think it's still relevant. 

If you have tips, recommendations, advice, etc., please share it on the Reimaginging CSR Blog.

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Jessica Hubbard (formerly Stannard-Friel) is a Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at an education company. Her experience in CSR includes work as a corporate philanthropy consultant at Changing Our World, where she advised companies on strategic social engagement; as a Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's CSR Initiative, where she worked with Jane Nelson; as Corporate Philanthropy Editor for and co-founder of the blog Future Leaders in Philanthropy (; and on a short-term project with the MAC AIDS Fund at Estee Lauder's MAC Cosmetics, where she worked on international grantmaking strategy. 

This post originally appeared on the Reimagining CSR Blog. Posted with persmission of the author.