Why NAACP’s Airbnb Partnership Is Worth Watching

A year-old agreement between the home-sharing company and civil rights organization aims to help support communities of color, and it comes with a revenue-sharing agreement to boot. Airbnb and the NAACP are treading slowly in rolling the idea out, however.

Usually, an advocacy initiative allows an organization to make an imprint on a big issue.

But a year-old agreement the NAACP made with Airbnb offered something else: An opportunity for the organization to earn some nondues revenue while helping a Silicon Valley firm navigate a challenging issue.

Last year, the two organizations announced a partnership designed to encourage communities of color to take part in home-sharing opportunities.

“Under the new partnership, Airbnb and the NAACP will conduct targeted outreach to communities of color to help more people use their homes to earn extra income,” the association said in a news release last July. “By increasing the number of travelers to communities of color, the partnership will spread the economic benefits of tourism.”

The association benefits from the arrangement, too; Airbnb offers 20 percent of its earnings to the nonprofit organization, and the two organizations are collaborating closely on a variety of other projects to encourage workforce and supplier diversity.

The move did raise questions at the time that it was announced.  While it was seen as a way for the company to fight discrimination that had previously peppered use of the service, it also raised concerns that it might worsen gentrification in areas that are already affected by the issue.

But one benefit of the agreement is that both organizations seem to be approaching it carefully, according to Wired, only launching in the Miami area in May and around Los Angeles in June. While the rollout is limited so far, according to the NAACP’s Marvin Owens, that’s because both organizations are trying to do it the right way.

“This is a long-distance run,” Owens, the senior director of the NAACP Economic Department, told the magazine. “Seeing any major change will require long-term collaboration and hard work.”

One issue that the NAACP and Airbnb are likely to focus on moving forward: Efforts to help nearby businesses. A recent Purdue University study highlighted by MarketWatch suggested more work needed to be done to support local businesses in predominantly black and Hispanic communities, which appear to receive less of an economic bump from Airbnb guests than predominantly white neighborhoods do. (For its part, Airbnb disputed the results, calling them “deeply flawed.”)

But whatever the case, the deal represents a rare beast in nonprofit advocacy: A deal with a for-profit company that meets an organization’s broader mission and helps fund it through revenue sharing.

Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood, one of the neighborhoods where Airbnb and the NAACP are working together. (Averette/Wikimedia Commons)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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