An Update: Philanthropy in the time of COVID-19

Taking a step back from telling the Handsome Bee story, we wanted to share an update with you. As of April 1st, we are deploying all of our giving toward COVID-19 relief to directly support individuals affected by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the organizations working to keep people safe, find a cure, or support their communities.


With revenues drying and a period of uncertainty looming, small businesses like ours are shifting strategy to scale back and cut costs. For mission-driven companies, the current pandemic’s impact can feel even more daunting, as we are forced to grapple with a question that is central to our entire existence: to what degree do we remain focused on our core mission -- protect the environment, and save the bees -- in the midst of one of the most consequential pandemics in history. 


From the outside looking in, the decision can seem easy. The time for action is now, and healthcare workers and families need all the help that they can get, as the virus continues to ravage our country and the world, and when we think about how we can help personally, this urgency is crystal-clear. 


With the company, though, the calculus becomes a bit more difficult. We founded The Handsome Bee with a very clear objective: build a company for the environment and, more specifically, to preserve the bee population. Nearly every decision we have made, up until this point, was driven by that charter, and stepping away from it feels akin to abandoning the things we believe in most fervently. Other companies, too, have poured their lives into pursuing their most cherished missions, and now have to weigh the costs of putting those pursuits on pause. 


After some cross-country texts and Zooms, we decided that proceeds between April 1 and August 31 will support communities, families, and individuals affected by COVID-19, with the possibility of extending after more evaluation. In that time, we will continue to support the bees and the wonderful beekeepers, and we look forward to the day when life resumes some semblance of normalcy. We also urge you to take a look at some of the organizations, like the Pollinator Partnership, who are keeping bees top of mind amidst the pandemic. 


For companies going through the same thing, we’d offer a few pieces of advice. 


1.) Focus on where you can do the most good 


Everyone has different ways of supporting their most cherished causes. While some companies, like us, are making financial contributions, which are relatively easy to divert and maintain similar impact for other causes, other companies are giving their time and expertise or making in-kind contributions. Our financial contributions were easy to temporarily shift, but were this not the case, we might not have made the choice that we did. While COVID feels more urgent than some other causes, focus on where you are best equipped to make the biggest impact, not necessarily the thing that’s getting the most press. 


2.) There is nothing wrong with pressing pause


We’re lucky that we can keep going and keep giving. We are bootstrapped and running this company out of a living room in Santa Monica. Some of you have had a bit more growth and have employees to care for. Put your employees first; your work needs shepherds, and doing everything possible to keep those shepherds secure will ultimately allow you to more sustainably face the challenges that remain ahead for you and the causes most important to you. 


3.) Take the pulse of your customers 


We can only survive if we retain the trust of our customers. People take seriously their relationship with mission-driven companies, which is why we can’t just be pivoting every time there is something new to believe in. If people have supported you because they believe in your mission, remember that they have a vested stake in the future of your giving. Our customers are an essential part of any ability we will have to drive the long-term results that we care about, and if you think you will lose their trust and their loyalty, proceed forward without a pivot. 


4.) The strategy can change


What you decide now can (and likely will) change as more data and more information becomes available. That’s ok. Make the decision that works for you right now. Whether it makes sense to pull back and give later, to shift giving, or to stay the course, make the best decision with available information, and keep an open mind to how that might change. 


5.) We’re all in this together


What kind of blog post would this be without cheesy advice to round it out? Navigating this pandemic is difficult enough from a personal standpoint, but there is added pressure for those running small businesses. Lean on the B-Lab community, the small business community, Reddit, your neighbors, or anyone else who might have some valuable insight to share and navigate forward. 


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Take care, stay home, and stay safe. 


With love, 


The Handsome Bee Family



P.S. We would love to hear any ideas that you have around supporting bees, whether through crafts and education, incorporating local honey into your new cooking regimen, or volunteer projects you can do from home. All help is appreciated and makes a difference.

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