How startups can improve the world 1% at a time – StartupSmart

The Pledge 1% philanthropy program, created by Salesforce and supported by the likes of Atlassian, is well on the way of meeting the goal it set late last year of signing up 500 companies by December.


The program sees participating companies volunteer to divert 1% equity, 1% employee time or 1% of product to charitable causes. Companies can pledge all three if they wish. With about three months until its self-imposed deadline, more than 350 startups and companies have taken the pledge, and promised to donate at least 1% equity, time, or product.


Atlassian’s co-founder Scott Farquar says taking the pledge early on in Atlassian’s life is one of the best decisions he’s ever made. Salesforce Foundation VP of philanthropy and engagement Ebony Frelix says there’s no reason early-stage startups can’t take part, and given the scalability of the model, make a real impact.


“A startup with just two founders can say this year, we’re going to give 1% of our time. A couple of hours, it’s so doable. It might seem like it’s just 1%. But 1% is really a lot. And the thing is when companies do it from the beginning, as you grow you’ll continue to give back,” she says.


“No matter how big or small you are, it’s committing to do something in the communities where we live and work.”


Salesforce co-founder Marc Benioff has been vocal about philanthropy, saying it needs to be about more than just cash telling Bloomberg’s Emily Chang recently “money alone isn’t going to solve anybody’s problems”.


Thanks to the pledge 1% program, 25,000 not-for-profit organisations and higher education institutions using Salesforce’s products either for free or a discounted rate. Salesforce employees are also given six days of paid leave per year for volunteering.


To-date Salesforce employees have volunteered for a total of more than 1.1 million hours. Once an employee donates the full six days, they’re given a $1000 grant to give to a cause of their choice. Salesforce will also match donations from employees up to $5000 per year.


Not only does the pledge benefit the not-for-profits and community more broadly, Frelix says its win-win for the companies that take the pledge, making it easier for them to hire and retain employees while doing good.


“For example an organisation I donated to last year, not only did they get my time, but they also got a $1000 champion grant, I personally donated $5000 and the company matched that $5000. So that’s $11,000 to a not-for-profit,” she says.


“I don’t want to give up those benefits. I’m attached to the organisations I’ve donated to year-over-year, what happens if my $11,000 goes away? I think about that.


“It pays its own rewards, because you feel good, you want to do more, you want to show up to work because you have this amazing company that allows you to feel good about yourself.”


Frelix stresses the importance of donated time, particularly when it’s coming from startups.


“All that startup energy and mojo. There’s a certain, I don’t know what about startups. That energy, excitement and passion that they bring. Imagine matching that passion with volunteering.


“We try and wrap our arms around organisations. The power is in our people.”


If you’d like to take part, head over to www.pledge1percent.org.

StartupSmart attended Dreamforce as a guest of Salesforce.


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