Regardless of your political affiliation, there’s one thing we can agree upon: the election of Donald Trump has made political waves on a wide variety of civil rights topics and prompted many companies to take stands on often-divisive issues.
No nonprofit organization has felt the impact of these changes more acutely than the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). After the 2016 presidential election, its membership went from 457,000 to 1,800,000, its number of monthly donors increased nearly seven-fold and it hired its first strategic corporate alliance team.
For the first time, according to ACLU Director of Strategic Partnerships Danielle Silber, companies realized that their businesses could be extremely and negatively impacted by orders on civil rights issues coming out of Washington. In unprecedented numbers, companies turned to the ACLU for assistance, Silber told listeners of a recent Engage for Good webinar.
The Trump Administration’s immigration ban was one of the first actions that provided a wake-up call to a large number of companies. It stimulated many to question how the move would impact recruiting of overseas talent and employee travel overseas. In response, 130 companies signed an amicus brief opposing the ban.
One prominent and vocal early supporter to emerge in the wake of the ban announcement was the ride sharing company Lyft, whose Senior Manager of Social Impact Lisa Boyd also participated in the recent webinar. After the ban was announced, Lyft proactively committed to donate $1 million to the ACLU, saying, “We stand firmly against these actions, and will not be silent on issues that threaten the values of our community.”
Lyft has since invited consumers to help support a variety of nonprofit organizations (including the ACLU) with its “Round Up & Donate” feature enabling riders to select from a list of pre-selected charities and “round up” their ride fare to the nearest dollar to be donated to that charity. The program has generated a staggering $5 million in donations to multiple nonprofit organizations since it was launched in April of 2017.
Lyft is careful when considering which issues to support publicly and the issues on which it chooses to engage consumers. If they’re going to take a stand, “We want to do it right,” shared Boyd.
The ACLU is careful in the selection of corporate partners. Its formal vetting process includes a valuation matrix to ensure strong ROI as well as a risk matrix to identify potential weaknesses and points of conversation and collaboration, described Silber.
While the issues of civil rights are incredibly serious, the ACLU smartly acknowledges the very real issue of news overload and consumer fatigue in the face of so much negative messaging. The organization is focused on creating engagements that create community around issues that are gravely important, Silber explained.
According to Silber, consumers generally don’t engage with brands because they want to be lectured on social issues, but they do trust these brands to understand that a piece of their personal identity is political and are willing to engage in experiences that positively reflect this identity.
The more companies and causes together can create a culture shift and build community, the more they can can bond on social issues with Gen Z and millennials. The ACLU and Lyft provide impressive, high-profile initiatives of this type — it will be fascinating to see what they and others collaborate on in the months and years to come.
David Hessekiel is Founder and President of Engage for Good(formerly Cause Marketing Forum) and Peer to Peer Professional Forum and author of Good Works!
Originally posted on Forbes.