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Is Philanthropy Becoming Sexy?

By Denis Pombriant
Jul 20, 2018 11:17 AM PT

The Internet has a long and storied history of democratizing information and influencing social change. It has flattened hierarchies and made information accessible to many more people -- though, ironically, it also has sometimes assaulted democracy in the process. Just think about how philanthropy has been changing at the instigation of Salesforce, one of the Internet's poster kids.

Is Philanthropy Becoming Sexy?

From its earliest days, Salesforce has adhered to a 1,1,1 model of giving back to the community. It includes donating 1 percent each of employee's time, product and equity to charity. At any Salesforce event, the keynote speaker will take the audience through the company's philanthropy message and suggest ways for members to be more philanthropic too.

Now the company has taken another step in its philanthropic journey. A few years ago, the entity that administered the 1,1,1 program was spun out to create a foundation, Salesforce.org. "The org," as it's known, is beginning to make available an application that can make us all philanthropists at a time when, perhaps surprisingly, there's real demand for better approaches to philanthropy.

For instance, in the tech industry alone, more than 3,000 companies have adopted some version of the 1,1,1 model.

There's a small difference between philanthropy and charity. Charity generally involves regular citizens donating money to good causes. On the other hand, philanthropy can be seen more as a leadership position in which big players establish charities and lend their names and time to attract others to good causes.

Millennial Expectations

The big players can shine a bright light on a cause, and that's good -- but most causes linger in obscurity, unable to get their messages to the public. Now the Salesforce Philanthropy Cloud has begun to link people and causes in ways that shift the dynamic.

The Philanthropy Cloud fosters a marketplace in which volunteers, donors and charitable causes meet to match people, needs and resources better. This helps everyone to become more involved, and to donate time and other resources for the greater good.

How important is that? You might be surprised to know that studies show the millennial generation wants greater participation in charitable causes, and even wants employers to participate in, if not lead, the charge.

Today, some people even make job decisions based on a company's philanthropic profile. This should not be surprising, given a tight labor market and the increasing demand of millennials to find meaning in their work.

Data supporting much of this can be found in a report from Povaddo, an opinion research and issues management consultancy. "Giving Your Workforce a Voice" is the consultancy's second annual look at how doing good also can be good for a corporate bottom line. From the report,

  • Seventy-three percent of employees are either very familiar or somewhat familiar with their companies' corporate philanthropy efforts. (In other words, employees are paying attention.)
  • Sixty-three percent say their company's commitment to corporate philanthropy and employee volunteering is excellent or good.

Still, corporations could be doing more, in their employees' eyes. Half (49 percent) of the 1,501 people surveyed said they got paid time off to volunteer in the community. That percentage would rise to 68 percent if employees could be guaranteed paid time off for charitable work. What seems to be lacking is an app for companies to coordinate their efforts, which is what Salesforce has proposed with its Philanthropy Cloud.

Lest you think this is an anomaly, the prior year's report discovered that 45 percent of respondents felt corporate America's role in addressing philanthropic issues was more important than a year earlier. So the evidence suggests that philanthropy has been emerging as a factor in attracting talented employees. How businesses will respond is an open question, but it suggests that the Salesforce Philanthropy Cloud is timely.

Philanthropy Cloud: What It Is and How It Works

The Salesforce Philanthropy Cloud can help address all these issues. Since late last year, the company has been rolling out a solution for capturing donations and eventually will include additional modules for organizing volunteering and grants management. With these in place, any charity will have greater access to the public, and people will be able to choose how they invest their charitable resources -- both time and money.

For example, a person interested in ecological/environmental issues will be able to identify local, national and international efforts. This in turn can make it possible for the person to become directly involved in local efforts to, for instance, plant trees or clean up river banks, in addition to targeting donations to efforts on a broader scale.

Salesforce has partnered with the United Way to roll out Philanthropy Cloud. United Way is the largest charitable umbrella organization in the U.S., and the rollout will provide an important proof point for the new cloud's scalability.

My Two Bits

Philanthropy always has had a certain cachet, because it highlights some of the best human instincts. Celebrities, royalty and ordinary people donate time and resources to causes that need support and that have a challenging time attracting support.

Often the general public's involvement in worthy causes has been limited to donations, however, and people who want to do more -- millennials, for instance -- have been stymied by a lack of options, such as an inability to identify relevant causes and the pervasiveness of a charity model that has been focused primarily on monetary donations over volunteer effort.

The Salesforce Philanthropy Cloud promises to change this dynamic. If the survey data is any indication, this cloud has come along at a good time. Demand for approaches to greater philanthropic involvement has been increasing. It might not even be an overstatement to say that philanthropy is becoming sexy.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.


Denis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry analyst, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can't Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there. Email Denis.


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