A fundraising program that Yelp and GoFundMe put in place this week to help local businesses impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic has been paused after public outcry over how it was rolled out — specifically, controversy over how the two provided no easy and quick way to opt out of the fundraising.
The fundraising campaigns started to appear automatically with company profiles on Yelp after the announcement, but to get out of running the campaign, Yelp and GoFundMe required more identification from business owners (for example drivers’ licenses or business ID verifications). One estimate put the number of fundraisers that had been created through the program at 144,000.
The two companies are now working together to create a “more seamless” way to opt out of the fundraising feature, Yelp said in a statement. (You can read the full statement at the bottom of the article below.)
The lesson here is that while the Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly had a major impact on local retailers and other businesses that have been forced to close, or have lost business, due to shelter-in-place and other social distancing measures, this incident highlights the fact that this doesn’t mean that every business want to fundraise to offset their own specific predicaments. And if they do, ultimately it is their own choice which companies they will choose to work with if they do so.
The original fundraising feature was launched by Yelp earlier this week as part of a bigger effort from both companies to provide assistance to businesses and individuals impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. (Yelp has also committed $25 million in waived fees for those who usually pay it for premium listing services; while GoFundMe is also working with other companies like Intuit QuickBooks to build fundraisers for its business customers.)
At the time, the companies noted that the feature would “automatically” appear under a business profile on Yelp.
It was only yesterday, however, that outcry over how that integration was put in place, and how hard it was to remove, both for small businesses and for those that are part of larger chains.
At a time when we are seeing a huge groundswell of good works and charity to help our communities get through what is not just a public health crisis, but a social and economic one, the resulting feature has a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, and felt more like opportunistic profiteering (both GoFundMe and Yelp are businesses, after all) than altruism.
We’re still waiting to hear back from GoFundMe, but Yelp’s statement is below:
On Tuesday, Yelp announced a partnership with GoFundMe to provide a fast and easy way for people to support their favorite local businesses by donating to a GoFundMe fundraiser directly on the Yelp pages of eligible businesses. In an effort to get businesses help quickly and easily, a GoFundMe fundraiser was automatically added to the Yelp pages of an initial group of eligible businesses, with information provided on how to claim it or opt out should a business choose to do so. However, it has come to our attention that some businesses did not receive a notification with opt-out instructions, and some would have preferred to actively opt-in to the program. As such, we have paused the automatic rollout of this feature, and are working with GoFundMe to provide a seamless way for businesses to opt into the program moving forward, as we have received a great deal of interest and support for the program from both consumers and businesses alike.