How to Help: Initiatives to Support Small Businesses

By Andrew Martins,
business.com writer
| Updated
May 28, 2020
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Learn what you can do to help other small businesses survive the economic stress caused by COVID-19. Here are some initiatives you can support or participate in.

While everyone has been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak in one way or another, small businesses have been hit particularly hard. The last few weeks have seen the altruistic rise of Americans wanting to help other Americans – and businesses wanting to help other businesses.

Here are some of the business initiatives designed to help America's small business community.

Small businesses helping each other

As a small business owner, you know that small businesses are the heart of the American economy, which is why it's important to support your fellow small business community members.

Here are some initiatives you can get behind.

PayToday

The PayToday Initiative urges small businesses everywhere to square away their debts with their small business suppliers. According to the initiative, of which business.com is a member, approximately 37% of small businesses have less than 30 days of cash on hand, are owed approximately $900 billion in receivables and usually wait an average of 28 days to get paid. If they can collect their receivables sooner, small businesses could have a better chance of survival.

"Every hour matters for small businesses that run on razor-thin margins," said Womply CEO Toby Scammell. "In addition to urgent government intervention, we need the private sector to come together in unprecedented solidarity."

The Great American Takeout

Aimed at helping local restaurants that have seen revenues drop substantially in recent weeks, The Great American Takeout utilizes social media to urge consumers and other businesses to order takeout or delivery from local establishments, since dine-in services are no longer available in support of social distancing measures. While the initiative aims to help small businesses, major national restaurant chains have signed on to support the cause, including California Pizza Kitchen, Chevys Fresh Mex, Panera Bread and Veggie Grill.

Rally for Restaurants

Rally for Restaurants is an initiative that encourages customers to support local restaurants by ordering takeout or purchasing gift cards. Described as a "grassroots initiative from restaurant technology providers, public and private companies, restaurant owners and workers, and people everywhere coming together to support the restaurant community in their time of need," Rally for Restaurants is the result of multiple advocacy groups joining forces. The Restaurant Workers' Community Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy and action group, and World Central Kitchen, a global NGO that provides meals during natural disasters, will be among the recipients of up to $250,000 generated by Toast.org's social media posts.

Game Manufacturers Association

The Game Manufacturers Association has compiled a list of ongoing efforts by board game publishers to support local game stores. In many instances, publishers are selling their products directly to customers, with a portion of the profits going directly to a store of the customer's choosing. While some companies do this by directly sending the funds to the store in question, others are setting up affiliate programs to effectively do the same thing. GAMA has also set up a store locator on its site to support the stores that offer curbside service and online delivery options.

"We have to pull together," John Stacy, executive director of GAMA, told Polygon last month. "If we don't have a healthy front line of stores, if we don't have happy publishers, then it will be distribution [next], and all the tiers collapse if we're not supporting each other."

Small business support from big businesses and other entities

While there are numerous examples of small businesses banding together to help one another, other organizations are chipping in to help U.S. entrepreneurs. Here are some of the initiatives offering relief to small businesses.

Paychex joins fintech companies in helping SMBs secure PPP loans

As a second run of the Paycheck Protection Program is underway, Paychex announced in late April that it was teaming up with online lenders to help locate and secure those funds in this current round.

Through the partnership, Paychex, SurePayroll, Oasis and Advance Partners users can take advantage of free online solutions from Biz2Credit, Fundera and Lendio to complete loan applications without going to a bank. They can do that by selecting one of those lending networks, filling out a quick survey, uploading any requested documents and then determining which lender will work best for them.

RingCentral provides free licenses to affected businesses

Telecommunications company RingCentral is helping schools, healthcare providers, nonprofits, governmental entities, and news and media outlets affected by or combating COVID-19. Until June 15, the RingCentral COVID-19 Assistance Program is available to both new and existing customers, giving them 90 days of free access to RingCentral Office, which includes online fax, VoIP phone service and a team messaging platform.

Under the program, new users can host video meetings with up to 200 participants. Existing members with RingCentral Essential and Standard plans can have their video meeting occupancy upped to 200 people until June 30.

Upserve offers free online ordering service

Many small eateries have moved their services online, letting customers order over the internet and either have their food delivered or pick it up curbside. Upserve is helping restaurants move online by providing free implementation of its virtual POS system and commission-free online ordering service while also suspending OLO fees.

Sneaker company starts fundraising effort for SMBs

Skateboarding sneaker company Vans recently unveiled its Foot the Bill initiative, which aims to help approximately 80 local and community-driven small businesses, with businesses like skate shops, music venues, art galleries and restaurants impacted by COVID-19 being the predominant beneficiaries. Vans is raising funds for these businesses by designing and selling up to 500 pairs of custom, limited-edition sneakers based on each business. All proceeds, minus the cost of production and shipping, will be donated to the partner represented by the shoe that was sold. At $90 per pair, each business could stand to receive tens of thousands of dollars in relief through the program.

GoFundMe launches Small Business Relief Fund

GoFundMe has launched its own fundraiser to help small businesses. The GoFundMe Small Business Relief Fund has a goal of $2.4 million that the company hopes to disburse as a series of microgrants to qualifying small businesses. GoFundMe is also urging small businesses and communities to start their own fundraisers to help local businesses in need.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce starts Save Small Business Initiative

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Save Small Business Initiative is a "nationwide program to address small businesses' immediate needs, mitigate closures and job losses, and mobilize support for long-term recovery." The initiative comprises four parts: supplemental financial assistance, which will provide $5,000 supplemental grants to small businesses; advocacy, featuring a continued fight for legislation to help small businesses; resources, webinars and guides to help small businesses navigate the crisis; and research, which officials said will consist of a quarterly survey to see how small business owners are recovering.

"Our nation is facing a crisis that requires an unprecedented level of support and collaboration between government and business," said Tom Donohue, the CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "The Save Small Business Initiative is a multifront battle plan to combat the ongoing economic destruction and lay the foundation for recovery."

Amazon starts Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund

Amazon's Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund is providing grants to companies with fewer than 50 employees or less than $7 million in annual revenue. Recipients must also "rely heavily on foot traffic" and be open to the public. The company says the goal of its grants program is "to help our neighborhood small businesses maintain their livelihood and continue to foster a vibrant community." As small businesses and third-party sellers are a major part of Amazon's online offerings, it makes sense for the Seattle-based online megaretailer to support small business owners.

Facebook launches Small Business Grant Program

Facebook is offering up to $100 million in cash grants and ad credits for small businesses through its Small Business Grants Program. Officials said the program will support up to 30,000 small businesses in more than 30 countries but will only provide funding to businesses that have been in operation for more than a year and have fewer than 50 employees. The company must have been directly impacted by COVID-19 to qualify for a grant.

Shifting business models to support the cause

Multi-site solutions firm pivots to help businesses adapt

Sevan Multi-Site Solutions – which helps businesses with multiple locations coordinate their expansion, remodeling and update plans – is now helping businesses install safety precautions as they prepare for an influx of customers. It also developed a Biological Defense Preparedness Guide to help businesses learn from the company's discussions with its existing clients' needs and experiences.

For actual upgrades at physical locations, the company now offers modifications to facilitate contactless shopping as well as store disinfecting and sanitization. With the right upgrades, Sevan's COVID-19 measures can ensure your customers maintain social distancing guidelines while your business receives site assessments of how the changes are panning out.

Breweries and distilleries making hand sanitizer

Cleaning and sanitation supplies have become hard to find as demand rises. To help local communities and small businesses get their hands on some sanitizer, numerous distilleries and breweries have switched parts of their operations to churn out bottles of the stuff.

Among the many breweries to make the shift are Anheuser-Busch, Dogfish Head and New Holland Brewing. Distilleries known for stronger imbibes have also made the switch, that list being considerably longer.

I am a former newspaper journalist who has transitioned to strictly cover the business world for business.com and Business News Daily. I am a four-time New Jersey Press Award winner and prior to joining my current team, I was the editor of six weekly newspapers that covered multiple counties in the state.
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