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Leon Kaye headshot

How eBay Created a Global Community of Doing Good

By Leon Kaye

It’s one thing for a company to pivot rapidly during this crisis, give out grants to nonprofits and small businesses, or create a community for stakeholders to pay it forward. It's another to manage all of these response mechanisms at once, and that's what the online marketplace trailblazer eBay has done over the past several weeks.

Like many companies within and beyond the tech sector, eBay was forced to adapt quickly as the novel coronavirus wreaked havoc across society and threw business plans into disarray. But so far, the outlook for the San Jose-based company is bright. Based on its last quarterly results, the Silicon Valley giant has held its own. Revenues dipped a few percentage points compared to the prior year, but not surprisingly, the number of users increased.

Meanwhile, eBay has shown its chops as a strong corporate citizen, and no, we’re not only talking about the company clamping down on price gouging as the COVID-19 pandemic began to reveal its ugly side.

As with many companies, eBay has donated an eight-figure sum in its efforts to contribute to the global COVID-19 relief effort. The total amount increased to $15 million this week with the company’s most recent announcement that would donate an additional $10 million to help with responding to this pandemic in the U.S. and overseas. Nonprofits that are now in a stronger position to help those who need it most include Kiva, Start Small Think Big and the World Health Organization. “With eBay's support, [we] will be able to ensure that small businesses, who are so often left behind, have critical access to the services they need the most now,” said Jennifer DaSilva, executive director of the entrepreneurship empowerment nonprofit Start Small Think Big, in a public statement.

What’s interesting about eBay’s actions during this pandemic, however, is how it has built up a strong legacy of goodwill, which dates back to the early days of the dot-com era. The company quickly became a revelation for consumers who started to use the platform as a means to sell their unwanted stuff. Fast forward almost a quarter century after its founding, and we can see that sense of community still at a strong trajectory. In early April, for example, eBay kicked off Up & Running, a program it designed to help local businesses develop an online presence, and committed up to $100 million in support to assist small companies across North America.

Many of these small business owners are now paying it forward, whether they were longtime eBay resellers or given a lift through eBay’s latest initiatives. Many stories have unfolded, whether they involve donating laptops to students in need or providing meals to kids who suddenly lost access to nutrition programs due to school closures.

The recipe for eBay’s success is formulaic and can be adapted by other companies in different industries: The tech giant made it clear it would work with its resellers to ease financial pain, it took steps so it would be seamless for sellers to join its global response to COVID-19, and as it helped to launch new businesses, it positioned itself as a partner, not an adversary. As such, the Guardian newspaper recently described eBay as enjoying a “lockdown renaissance.” The company’s corporate citizenship streak, however, is unleashed, and in quite a good way.

Image credit: eBay Media Relations

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye