Make no mistake, Facebook wants desperately to keep small businesses alive. That, of course, is a noble effort. All of us are cheering for small businesses, which are not only one of the major sources of employment in our communities, they also happen to be where many of us will look to help get us back to "normal," whatever that is. 

In the meantime, there's a very real problem for companies like Facebook. Digital advertising has changed considerably in a world that, in many ways, has hit the pause button. Millions of people are suddenly working from home, or not working at all. 

Small businesses across the country have been forced to shut their doors, or figure out a completely new way to serve their customers without the ability to actually interact with them. Unfortunately, if you leave something on pause long enough, it usually stops. 

That's the dilemma faced by companies like Facebook--whose primary customers are other businesses. Without customers, it's hard to make money. Of course, that's true of every business. Without money, it's just a really expensive hobby. 

That explains why Facebook has made such an aggressive effort to help small businesses, including its $100 million grant program, a new way to sell gift cards, and the ability of small businesses to host personal fundraisers. Here, a bit more on each:

Facebook Grant Program

As I wrote last month, Facebook is extending $100 million in grants to 30,000 small businesses. Those grants are cash that can be used for normal operating expenses like payroll or marketing or paying rent. The company has started accepting applications in a limited number of cities, and will roll out availability in other cities in the next few weeks. 

In addition to being located in one of those cities, your business must have between two and 50 employees, have been operating for over a year, and have experienced challenges from Covid-19. If that's your business, you can visit Facebook's Grant Program website for more information.

Gift Cards

 inline image

Last week, the company also introduced a new partnership with Square and Kabbage for small businesses to sell gift cards directly through the Facebook app. Gift cards have become a popular way to support local small businesses, even when you can't shop or dine with them. One of the challenges is that creating and selling gift cards isn't always easy for small businesses. Never mind that if you don't have an online store, it can be hard to even make them available to customers.

With that in mind, Facebook has created the ability for businesses to set up digital gift cards, and the company is prominently promoting them within local markets. That means not only are you able to connect with your existing customers who want to support your business, but also reach new customers.

Fundraisers

Finally, Facebook has extended its personal fundraiser program to include small businesses. That means business owners can create a fundraiser to allow customers to donate directly to the business. Facebook says you may have to provide documentation to demonstrate your ownership, and it advises that due to decreases in staffing due to the coronavirus pandemic, it may take a little longer than normal to approve your fundraiser. 

For as many small businesses that are struggling to figure out how to survive, there are communities who want to see them thrive. Setting up a fundraiser, in these extraordinary circumstances, can be the difference between the two.