Uber, the popular ridesharing service, announced its “Ride for a Cause” charity initiative Sept. 19, partnering with five D.C. area charities to donate $1 for every ride through Sept. 28.
“Uber has always been committed to giving back to the communities we serve,” Uber spokesperson Taylor Bennett said. “We’re constantly exploring new ways to provide even greater value to our partners and a better experience to our riders.”
At the end of each ride, passengers can choose one of the five charities to receive the donation from Uber. In addition to the $1 per ride option, every person who refers a friend to Uber will have $2 donated to the charity of his or her choice. When the program ends, the charity with the most selections will unlock an additional $10,000 donation.
The five participating charities are Best Buddies, Fight for Children, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, National Park Foundation and So Others Might Eat.
Bennett explained that Uber aimed to partner with diverse charities for the initiative, in order to offer customers a variety of donation options.
“We chose both local and national charities that advocate for a range of causes,” he said. “Best Buddies, Fight for Children, IAVA, National Park Foundation and So Others Might Eat are all fantastic charities with wonderful missions.”
According to Bennett, Ride for a Cause has already raised thousands of dollars.
SOME spokesman Tracy Jefferson said that the money from Uber will go toward assisting the children cared for by the charity.
“Each dollar that we raise will be directed to providing nutritious snacks for kids in our after-school program,” Jefferson said.
Fight for Children, a nonprofit organization focused on providing D.C. children with better quality education, will put the money towards Joe’s Champs, the wing of the organization focusing on preschool quality in high-need neighborhoods.
“We’re a well-known brand with a strong social media presence, and I think we have a good program and a message to promote,” Fight for Children External Relations Director Jeff Travers said.
This is not Uber’s first charity effort in the D.C. area. Last November, Uber offered free rides to and from community partners as an opportunity for riders to donate or volunteer without having to pay for transportation. In December, Uber donated $1 toward gifts for D.C. families in need for every UberBLACK user who took a ride on Dec. 16.
Travers noted that corporate partnerships with charities were increasing.
“I’ve been working in nonprofits my whole life,” he said. “More and more, companies are looking to help charities and market their brand.”
Recently, Uber has faced pushback from city councils across the country and received a cease-and-desist letter from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles in June regarding concerns over its regulatory status.
The D.C. Taxicab Commission has also called for increased regulation of the ride-sharing service, which is not registered with the DCTC.
“We would much prefer that Uber operate within the regulatory system as opposed to outside of it,” DCTC spokesperson Neville Waters said. “Our job is public safety and consumer protection, so in order to perform our duties it would be critical to know who is driving and what kind of vehicles are on the road.”
Jefferson, however, praised Uber for its charity initiative.
“We’re happy to be a part of the initiative and excited about possibly working with Uber moving forward,” Jefferson said.
Students were appreciative of Uber’s charity efforts, though Dan Akselrod (SFS ’18), a frequent user of the service, was skeptical that it would affect the company’s ridership.
“I think it’s great that Uber is using their growing popularity to contribute to charitable causes,” he said. “However, I do not think that this one initiative will encourage people to use Uber. If people care about the charities, they will just continue to support them in ways they already have.”
Jim Nealon (MSB ’16) thought the initiative was a good way for community members to give back, though he hoped it would be a starting point for further volunteerism.
“Considering how quickly Uber has expanded and how many college students use the service on a regular basis, I think this is a great idea,” Nealon said. “Of course, this campaign should not be a substitute for participating in actual volunteer service. However, I think this is a small thing that can get people in our community involved and talking about how we can better serve the D.C. community.”