How to help local businesses and nonprofits during the coronavirus pandemic

Here in California, where CREDO is headquartered, many of our amazing local businesses — which employ thousands of workers and provide the character that makes our communities so vibrant and special — have been closed for weeks. Other businesses, deemed essential, have seen drops in business and face layoffs and economic uncertainty as well. Local nonprofits, especially those that rely on grassroots funding, have been affected, too.

It’s not just in California — small businesses are struggling in communities across the country, especially as the Trump administration’s small business relief programs are mired in issues, and Wall Street banks are refusing to service many loans. But together, we can do our small part to help our local businesses and nonprofits during this time of need.

Next time you’re about to make a purchase during our collective quarantine, think about how you can direct it to a local business instead of a major retailer. Here are some tips to help the small businesses and organizations in your communities during the coronavirus pandemic.

Order Delivery or Takeout

Restaurants and their workers are some of the hardest hit during this crisis, as restaurants close their dine-in operations. By June, some are estimating that 5 to 7 million restaurant workers across the country could lose their jobs. Many restaurants have transitioned some of their business to takeout and delivery to stay up and running and employ (a portion of) their workforce. This could be a good time to order your favorite meal or two from a local eatery. 

But is it safe to order delivery or curbside pickup? According to the Food and Drug Administration, “there is no evidence to suggest that food produced in the United States can transmit COVID-19.” Likewise, infectious disease and food safety experts typically agree that food itself is not likely to transmit the virus, but if you feel wary, you may want to order cooked foods. Here’s more from experts interviewed by NPR.

What many suggest you do, however, is practice proper social distancing when your food is delivered or picked up. Many restaurants now offer contactless delivery, or you can leave delivery instructions to ensure your food is left at your door. Immediately wash your hands and avoid touching your face after bringing your food inside and unpacking it. Then, of course, leave your delivery person — who is most likely a self-employed gig worker —  a larger-than-normal tip.

Buy Online or Purchase Gift Cards

Many non-essential local businesses have closed their brick-and-mortar storefronts, but most are keeping up their web and social media presences, where they could still be selling their offerings online. If not, give them a call to find out if they are still open and what they have available for delivery. They may be offering specials now, too, so it might be a good time to send business their way, if you are able to.

Another way you can help inject a little more into your local economy is to purchase gift cards from your favorite local business. This way, if a business isn’t currently open or is facing other difficulties, you are providing some relief to your community now, and you can use the gift card later when businesses reopen.

Donate to Local Nonprofits

During this pandemic, many large nonprofits, especially those working on COVID-19 relief work, are seeing encouraging signs of philanthropy. In fact, CREDO is donating $75,000 among three organizations providing critical coronavirus aid where it’s needed, which is in addition to our regular monthly donations to great nonprofit groups, some of whom are working on COVID-19 relief projects

But other local nonprofits may be struggling to make ends meet right now, including providing critical services and ensuring their employees continue to earn a living. Right now, many local shelters and food pantries are desperately in need of donations. If you’re able to give during this time, especially if you’re in a place to donate a portion of your government stimulus payment, your local nonprofits — who may be overlooked during this time — will really appreciate your generosity. Not sure to whom to give in your community? Check out Great Nonprofits and Charity Navigator to search for organizations near you.

Leave Glowing Online Reviews

Talk to a local business owner and they’ll tell you they rely on third-party review sites to keep new customers coming in. For many small businesses, these review sites can make, or unfortunately break a business, especially if one of the major sites elevates a poor review or two. But in today’s hyper-connected, algorithm-based economy, small businesses must contend with this reality, even as many storefronts are currently closed.

If you find yourself with a little extra time, set up an account on Yelp and Google (go to Google maps and search for the business) and leave some five-star reviews for your favorite local businesses. Jump on Instagram and Facebook and leave some glowing comments. We can be pretty sure your local businesses will appreciate it.

Tip Excessively

We mentioned this above, and we can’t stress this enough: Please tip and tip generously, if you can. Many delivery workers are self-employed gig workers who may lack basic protections like health insurance, sick pay or personal protective equipment that is not provided by their employing service. Recently, some Instacart users have shamefully lured delivery gig workers with large tips, only to change the tips to $0.00 after their groceries were delivered.

Many of these workers are putting themselves in potentially dangerous situations by continuing to earn a living. Show them your appreciation with a large tip. And please, don’t change your tip after delivery, unless it’s to give them more.