Step back and consider the collective financial power of global brands and it's easy to see how much good they could do in the world.
The fact is, many brands make donations and get involved in social and humanitarian causes on a regular basis.
But a disaster of the magnitude that struck Japan late last week offers a unique public relations and humanitarian opportunity for brands to participate in relief and recovery.
Many are not only making outright donations, but also matching employee donations, and/or making donations in kind of products and services to help with the recovery efforts.
They're also encouraging their customers and fans on Facebook, Twitter and in their retail locations or offices to contribute to Japan disaster relief.
Below, we take a look at how brands of all sizes are supporting relief efforts in Japan.
Size isn't an impediment to corporate compassion and branded philanthropy, as you'll see below.
The Red Cross, as you'll also see, is receiving the lion's share of corporate donations (which are being tracked by the US Chamber of Commerce) to Japan relief efforts.
Here's an overview of just some of the brands helping Japan with cash, support, employee matching programs and other ways of showing their corporate citizenship:
Abbott and Abbott is donating $3 million to the Japanese Red Cross via the American Red Cross, as well as working with longstanding partner AmeriCares.
Aflac, which has 5,000 employees in Japan, donated $1.2 million to the International Red Cross (and fired Gilbert Gottfried, the voice of its duck mascot, for insulting remarks regarding the disaster).
Amgen made a $1 million donation.
AMR Corp., the parent of American Airlines and American Eagle, is giving AAdvantage members 250 bonus miles for a minimum donation of $50 and 500 miles for $100 or higher donations to the American Red Cross Japan and the Pacific Tsunami Fund.
AT&T and Verizon are offering free calls and text messages to Japan.
Apple is taking donations for the Red Cross (up to $200 a time) within iTunes.
Bank of America announced a $1.22 million commitment, and set up a Japan Earthquake/Pacific Tsunami Relief Fund through the bank's Matching Gifts program.
BMO Financial Group made a $100,000 donation to the Red Cross, and is accepting donations through its Bank of Montreal branches in addition to waiving fees for transferring funds to relatives and affected individuals in Japan.
The Boston Red Sox foundation is donating $50,000 and collecting funds from fans for the Red Cross (above).
Charles Schwab is donating $250,000 with an additional $100,000 in company matching.
Coca-Cola has pledged $7.3 million in cash and donations, along with freeing up its dispensing machines (in a real-life twist on its Happiness Machine campaign).
Eli Lilly has committed up to 100 million yen ($1.2 million).
General Electric pledged $5 million in humanitarian aid; in addition to the cash, equipment and services, GE is matching employee donations 100%, with more than $100,000 donated by staffers by Monday.
Goldman Sachs is donating 500 million yen (about $6.1 million).
Jefferies is donating $1 million with a separate program to donate net equity trading revenue.
Kraft is donating $200,000 for the Japanese Red Cross, in addition to matching employee contributions and donating food.
Levi Strauss made an initial $50,000 donation to the International Red Cross.
MasterCard is donating $250,000 and waiving fees on donations to Japanese relief efforts.
McDonald's is donating $2 million to the Red Cross.
Medtronic is donating $1 million and giving away products to relief efforts.
Merck made an initial contribution of $1.25 million: $750,000 to Save the Children and $500,000 to the American Red Cross.
Microsoft announced its support of the Red Cross and local NGOs on Friday, as well as a plan to help affected customers. It's making an initial commitment of $2 million, which includes $250,000 in cash and in-kind contributions such as software. Microsoft Exchange online is free for 90 days to business customers in Japan whose communications are affected.
Morgan Stanley is donating 100 million yen.
Motorola is donating $175,000 and matching employee donations up to $25,000.
NEC Corporation is donating funds, computers, telecom equipment and IT networking equipment worth more than $100 million.
The New York Yankees donated $100,000 to be split between the Salvation Army and Red Cross efforts in Japan.
Novellus Systems is donating $1 million in relief aid.
Procter & Gamble, which today reopened its plant in Japan, announced it has committed up to $1.2 million for earthquake relief efforts in Japan, including monetary and product donations such as diapers, feminine hygiene, hair care, pet care and skin care.
Starbucks is donating $1.2 million to the Red Cross.
Sun Life Financial in Toronto, which has an International Response Fund in partnership with the Canadian Red Cross, made an initial donation of $50,000 in addition to speed relief efforts on the ground.
TD Bank donated $100,000 to the Red Cross.
TELUS donated $100,000 to the Red Cross and Salvation Army.
UPS donated $1 million that will support transportation of emergency supplies and humanitarian relief workers.
Visa is waiving transfer fees on donations to Japan relief efforts through April 30.
Vonage is waiving per-minute calling charges to Japan.
Zynga, maker of the online game FarmVille, has joined forces with Save the Children and released several different methods through which its fans could donate to Japan. Several games were updated with in-game exclusive items that, when purchased, Zynga promises to donate 100% of proceeds to Save the Children for their efforts. In-game donations include FarmVille's new crop "Daikon Radish" — players can plant as many Daikon crops as desired, with Zynga matching the value of a player's donation.
One of the biggest responses by Japanese brands appears to be by Uniqlo, the Japanese apparel retailer, which is donating more than $25 million — $17 million in cash and $8.6 million in clothing — to the Red Cross in Japan. The clothing includes products from the companies HeatTech line, heat-generated fabric that creates and retains warmth in cold climates. This will be welcome news to survivors without shelter who are facing freezing temperatures in the affected regions of the country.
Honda, Nissan and Toyota will donate about $3.75 million each for relief and recovery efforts. Honda will also donate 1,000 power generators and 5,000 gas canisters, while Toyota will provide goods and services as needed. Mazda is donating 30 million yen and providing goods and personnel as requested, while Mitsubishi Electric donated $500 million yen.
Sony will donate about $3.5 million in addition to an employee matching gifts program. It's also donating 30,000 radios to assist victims and collecting donations across the Sony Group from employees worldwide for a disaster relief fund.
Panasonic is donating about $3 million along with 4,000 Solar LED Lanterns, 10,000 radios and flashlights, and 500,000 dry batteries.
Amway Japan and parent company Amway will provide about $1.2 million in cash and product donations to support relief efforts.
Additionally, Kyocera donated $1.22 million; Fujitsu donated 100 million yen; Nintendo is donating $3.6 million to relief efforts; Sega, $2.4 million; and Namco Bandai, $1.2 million.
Smaller brands are stepping up, of course. Brookstone stores are collecting funds for Save the Children. C&S Wholesale Grocers is donating $10,000 to the American Red Cross and donating food, water and supplies. Success Stories: Japan, a New York business information services company dedicated to helping corporations, financial firms and small businesses do business in Japan, introduced free services to help track down Japanese or foreign family members, acquaintances, and company staffers in Japan. The company will also assist in ensuring that donations of goods or services meant to assist victims in Japan find their way there quickly.
Sometimes the social angle of corporate giving can backfire, as Microsoft learned. As reported by Charlie White in Mashable, Microsoft's Bing team posted a tweet "offering to donate up to $100,000 for earthquake victims, but under one condition: that users would retweet the message, which would result in Microsoft increasing its donations by one dollar per retweet."
Despite Microsoft's charitable intentions, the tweet met with a backlash, "where some called the scheme a crass marketing attempt," reports White. Microsoft quickly withdrew the tweet and instead made an outright donation of $100,000.
Celebrities, of course, are doing their part. Lady Gaga, who rallied her fan base to support Haiti earthquake relief last year, is raising money with a charity bracelet she designed that says (in English and in Japanese) "We pray for Japan." While selling for $5 on her website, buyers can make an additional donation. All proceeds go directly to undisclosed relief efforts.
As we've noted, social media and online services played an early role as Twitter tried to "support those during times of needs like this," Google launched a People Finder app and crisis response page, and Facebook hosted a Global Disaster Relief page to provide updates on contributions and help. Google also donated about $250,000 to Japanese relief agencies.
Thanks to the help of Twitter in supporting and donating the #helpjapan hashtag, the American Red Cross has received more than $1 million in donations via text message to support its colleagues' efforts in Japan, according to Ad Age.
And while digital and tech execs have been holed up in Austin, TX, for South by Southwest Interactive, Groupon and LivingSocial, the two leading discount deals service providers, are facilitating donations from their millions of subscribing members.
Also marshalling tech- and social-savvy attendees at SXSW, Architecture for Humanity co-founder Cameron Sinclair announced a $75,000 commitment from corporate donors, most notably Nike.
Without a doubt, mobile social apps have sped up civilians' rapid response to crises, as witnessed by the rapid charitable organizing in response to the disaster in Japan — and have changed the model for fundraising and collective response.
CNN picked up on this trend in a segment today that notes two more socialized efforts on the ground at SXSW, which continues this week — how Charlie Annenberg and his Dog Bless You charity raised $100,000 through Facebook likes, and how Instagram users have been uploading images in support of the devastation in Japan.
What is your company doing to help Japan? Any other notable efforts by brands to help Japan? Please let us know with a comment below.
March, by the way, is Red Cross month, as Sara Evans' PSA below promotes.
(Above image from a collection of designers' Japan Aids posters compiled by Ads of the World)