Why It’s Never Too Early For A Business To Start Giving Back

May 31st, 2016 / Comments Off on Why It’s Never Too Early For A Business To Start Giving Back

In what sometimes feels like a tornado of bad news, there are always stories of good. Amazingly, living in Silicon Valley, I’m fortunate enough to see a whole movement in business where people are dedicating their lives to turning ideas into companies that change the way we do things. And many of the business leaders, either through their own personal wealth or through an innovative business model, make the world better too.

I’ve witnessed the wonders of doing so. I had the benefit of joining eBay after it went public, and as part of the process, Jeff Skoll and Pierre Omidyar created a foundation for eBay which helped establish a strong culture of giving back. The foundation not only inspired me to give personally, but also inspired Salesforce (which looked to the eBay model when starting its own initiative). I’m further inspired by what Marc Benioff did with this idea and how he extended it when he started Salesforce.

From day one, he implemented a 1/1/1 model, where he donated to a foundation one percent of the company’s equity, encouraged one percent of employee time be volunteered on a charity of their choice, and let nonprofits have his software for a significant discount. Today, that’s resulted in more than $115 million in grants, 1.3 million hours in community service, and product donations for more than 28,000 nonprofits and higher education institutions.

When I was recruited to be the CEO of LiveOps, one of the criteria for me to take the job was that we implement that same 1/1/1 model.  I had an internal team of volunteers manage the creation and ongoing effort around it, and most candidates coming through the recruiting process commented on how it made our company stand out and how proud our employees were of it.

Now, working with early stage startups whose founders are so busy and singularly focused on getting an idea off the ground (no easy feat), I often hear interest in giving back, but there’s fear that the time is not right.

But that’s not the case. Whether you are starting a company or starting at a company, leading an organization or managing a department, you can make it your business to serve others . No matter where you are, this is your time.

I know what you’re thinking:

• “I am trying to manage cash burn tightly, so I don’t have cash to give.”

• “I’m expecting big things out of my team and they are working like crazy, how can I ask them to spend more time on this?”

• “Equity, I don’t even know where to start!”

So what should you do to get going?

• Start slow. Participate in one of several charity drives around the holiday on food or toys, etc.  Celebrate how much you have raised or given.

• Let your people “own” it and develop it. Grant employees the freedom to spend up to two to five days a year volunteering on the non-profit of their choice. That makes it meaningful to them and they’ll support it.

• Use it to unite the company. Consider doing team-building exercises around helping a favorite charity.

• If you have a startup and are ready to create a comprehensive plan from the start, check out Salesforce’s Pledge 1% Program and websiteSalesforce Ventures, the company’s investment arm, encourages it portfolio companies to make giving back part of their business model from the start. In fact, 48 of their portfolio companies including Appirio, Box, Docusign, Demandbase and InsideSales, have adopted the 1/1/1 model.

None of the practices above will cost that much, but you and your team will find that giving back refreshes you and your team, and that you will receive more enjoyment than the effort you put in.

I believe strongly that companies and their divisions can have a soul.  I think caring about others less fortunate is soul food.  It nourishes everyone.

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