Bumble Is Changing Lives Amid Crisis
Virtual action leads to real-world impact with the social networking app’s Community Grant Program
By Holly Cowart
If anyone knows about the power of community, it’s the folks at Bumble. Founded in 2014 by Whitney Wolfe Herd, the female-forward social-networking app is utilized by more than 90 million users around the world to develop genuine dating, friendship and business relationships.
So when a global pandemic turned lives upside down, it’s no surprise that the experts in human connection would go through incredible lengths to help those in need.
As the severity of the outbreak became a reality, the organization set out to find ways to offset the mounting economic pressure faced by those now unable to make a living. Pulling together resources, they created the Community Grant Program, which allowed businesses up to $5,000 each in financial support. But as it turns out, the Hive wasn’t the only one itching to make an impact.
The $500,000 initially set aside for the grant rose to $785,000 thanks to the overwhelming generosity of the Bumble community. Budget holders shifted and employees opted to donate their work-from-home stipends of $500 – originally offered by the company to ease the transition to working remotely – and contribute directly to the people and places they knew were struggling. Through their gift, outreach spread farther than imagined.
“Every single employee who contributed to the program treated it as a labor of love,” recalls Bumble’s Strategy and Social Impact Senior Manager, Cybil Zhang. “It’s incredibly inspiring to see the support of the team and it is truly in our DNA to support the communities where we operate — especially here in our hometown of Austin.”
On March 23, the program became available to employers in 11 different countries. Through the app itself, users could nominate themselves or another to become a grant recipient. The need for support was immediately apparent – within just two weeks, the organization received applications from almost 25,000 small business owners and supporters. After thorough review, each submission was narrowed down to places that were both depended on by others and in the most need.
Of the 185 companies that were chosen, seven are based in Austin, from beloved food and drink purveyors to vital human resource organizations. They also have a few things in common, including female founders, a strong presence in their community and altruistic missions. Long before quarantine, Tiny House Coffee Roasters were ensuring their economic model was sustainable for small producers. Meanwhile, the dietitians of Nutritional Freedom worked with clients on an individual basis to provide counseling that encourages a mindset for improved health. Coupled with the grant, the appreciation is palpable.
“Many nominations shared stories of business owners who continued to cover healthcare or paid for groceries for all employees out of pocket. Despite the hardship, it’s encouraging to know that our communities are built by such selfless individuals,” says Zhang.
Another one of these beneficiaries is the Multicultural Refugee Coalition, which normally connects refugees with job opportunities to gain livable wages and self-sufficiency. Although no longer able to meet in person, the nonprofit found new ways to give by transitioning its enterprise resources to aid those affected by the outbreak. Sewing machines from Open Arms Studio were used to produce masks for healthcare workers and small businesses while its community garden, New Leaf Agriculture, focused intently on its Community Supported Agriculture program, providing local produce to over 70 families across Austin weekly. Simultaneously, Bumble’s grant relieved operating costs and salaries for their staff while in-between income.
Austin’s food industry was also heavily affected by the city shut down. After having to close its doors, East Austin’s Counter Culture was among the first round of grant recipients to receive funding. The act helped the decade-old vegan eatery stay afloat during uncertain times, and with some reevaluation, they were able to reopen on May 1 for take-out only orders.
“Even though we’re practicing self-isolation, we’re all looking out for one another in some way,” explains Counter Culture owner Sue Davis of the generosity she’s received. “I’ve especially seen this within the restaurant industry – from industry workers who may be impacted by COVID-19 to those who are sharing information on business grants, it’s been really humbling to see how we’re coming together during such a tumultuous time.”
That spirit of togetherness is demonstrated when companies like Bumble, which has become a global powerhouse, return to their hyper-local roots to help ensure economic security for the communities they serve.