Between hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires, Mother Nature certainly has presented some enormous challenges in the past couple of months. As people absorb the heartbreaking media coverage, many grapple with the devastation and wonder how it’s possible to help their fellow humans mend.

There are many above-and-beyond examples that demonstrate this willingness to help, and the fundraiser started by Houston Texans star JJ Watt exemplifies it. When Watt wanted to help his adopted city recover after Hurricane Harvey, he pledged his own donation and then set an initial fundraising goal of $200,000. In less than three weeks, donors’ generosity blew that target out of the water: $37 million was raised in total. On Watt’s YouCaring.com page, he summed up the ‘we’re all in this together’ mentality that drove donations: “If there is one thing that I have taken away from these last few weeks, it is the reassurance of how much good is out there in the world.”

One third of US families say they don’t spend enough time volunteering.

As Mintel Trend ‘Giving Back’ examines, people are creating their own ways to help those in need. From major disasters to everyday struggles, consumers are taking advantage of the connected tools that facilitate aid and are readily available at any time. Mintel’s US report on attitudes toward charities and non-profits found that half of consumers have donated clothing or physical items to a charity or non-profit organization in the last year. In addition to contributing money and resources, many consumers have aspirations to dedicate more of their time to help: more than a third of US families say they don’t spend enough time volunteering, according to Mintel’s report on lifestyles of young families in the US.

It makes sense, given this spirit of benevolence, that consumers also expect the companies from which they purchase to demonstrate their own moral and ethical goodness. Brands that take the concept a step further – to involve consumers in charitable opportunities – can foster deeper customer relationships while simultaneously making the world a better place. What’s not to love about these types of approaches?

Making the most of company resources

  • Airbnb encourages its user base to open their doors to those affected by major crises for free. Recently, the accommodations platform has waived all service fees for Hurricane Harvey victims and launched a project allowing residents in Milan, Italy to offer free housing to refugees.
  • Facebook has created a new tool, Community Help, which allows users to ask for and offer help during a crisis.
  • Apple now makes donating money easier for users by allowing them to instantly give to non-profits and charitable organizations directly from Apple Pay.
  • Uber and Russian agency Proximity introduced UberSEARCH, which places the portraits of missing children in Moscow on the cars of Uber drivers who volunteered to help to find the children.

Creating theme- or purpose-driven initiatives

  • In Colombia, Fitness chain Step Ahead has launched Titans Bootcamp, an ultra-fitness training program that combines exercise routines with activities such as home rebuilding, farming and recycling.
  • Honest Tea brought its #RefreshinglyHonest Project to 15 pop-up locations across the US and invited customers to share lighthearted truths, special moments and perfectly imperfect experiences to raise funds for VisionSpring, an organization which provides vision screenings and eye glasses to under-served communities worldwide.

Leveraging round-up-and-donate campaigns

  • Starbucks, Walmart, HomeGoods, Panda Express and Walgreens are just a few of the US retailers and foodservice operators that have helped customers donate money to the American Red Cross for recent hurricane relief efforts.
  • Lyft has implemented a program called Round Up & Donate, which allows riders to opt in to have their rides automatically rounded up to the nearest whole dollar, with the extra amount going toward social causes and issues.

There will always be communities that need help, and there will always be people who want to provide it. But this fall, the need is especially great – and now is the time to connect your brand with consumers in one of the most positive ways possible.

Stacy Bingle is a Consumer Trends Consultant at Mintel. Stacy joined Mintel in 2013 bringing with her an exciting blend of CPG, agency and marketing experience. Her time is spent traveling the US engaging clients across global CPG, Beauty and Financial Services in meaningful discussions around the consumer trends that will propel their businesses forward.

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