Previewing Dreamforce 2019

Dreamforce is next week. Once again, the sold-out show will be headquartered at San Francisco’s Moscone Center and overflowing to the ballrooms of neighboring hotels. Over the years Dreamforce has become the Las Vegas of trade shows in one important respect. Both are famous for being bastions of excess. Vegas has excesses of the sensual kind, while Dreamforce offers a business and technology equivalent.

I’ve given up counting the keynotes — one per cloud, at least. Dreamforce is replete with themes like equality and Customer 360, and overflowing with attractions on the tradeshow floor and the Trailhead floor. There are also classy touches. For instance, I know CEO Marc Benioff will have a fireside chat with President Barack Obama, and the big entertainment will be courtesy of Fleetwood Mac. You could have a full stop with just that, but there’s a lot more.

I have been hugely impressed with the company’s orientation toward giving back to the community, which at this point is basically the world. It has innovated a Philanthropy Cloud, which is a 21st century tool for bringing together donors, resources and charitable recipients.

What’s impressive is that it provides a way for any individual and any company to become more involved with philanthropic giving without imposing a lot of overhead on the business or its balance sheet.

Philanthropy Boosts Employee Satisfaction

Philanthropy Cloud gives organizations ways to offer community involvement to employees. They aren’t forced into activities that foster community improvement, but the system makes it possible for those interested in specific philanthropic activities — from working in soup kitchens to restoring wilderness — ways to find opportunities and kindred spirits, and to volunteer their time.

There’s good reason for offering philanthropic opportunities to employees. Research shows that a company’s attitude toward philanthropy is both a hiring tool and something that engages employees and encourages them to remain with a company instead of seeking new jobs.

In a tight job market, what can be more useful? Moreover, even when there aren’t more jobs than candidates, having a retention tool that helps businesses keep their most-valued people is a very good thing. It’s also a great way to raise a company’s public profile without a lot of expensive advertising and PR.

Platform Power

I’ve been involved with the Salesforce philanthropy group for several years, and I’ll be hosting a panel discussion at Dreamforce with three executives who have implemented their own philanthropy ideas, and who work with the Philanthropy Cloud and United Way to give back to their communities.

Most of the data about corporate giving that I’ve seen has been gleaned from the Fortune 1000. What’s cool about the panelists is that they’re from mid-size companies. They don’t have big budgets for philanthropy, and they got their efforts going thanks to the vision of their executives, not because some Salesforce person called on them and sold some software.

I’ve spoken with the panelists, and it’s impressive how much demand is out there for corporate-sponsored philanthropic activity, and how many executives and founders have made it a personal challenge to do something for their communities.

Our panelists include Tim Britt, CEO of Synoptec; Melissa Grimes COO of Nextep; and Orv Kimbrough, CEO of Midwest Bank Center. Each has a unique story to tell, and their stories come together around the ideas of executive leadership, developing programs that are based on a business’ strengths, and technology designed to remove a lot of the overhead that can make extracurricular activities costly and unworkable.

The Salesforce Philanthropy Cloud reminds me that the company increasingly is becoming a platform and tools company, and I know we’ll see many examples at Dreamforce. There’s no doubt Salesforce will continue in its CRM ways for a very long time, but CRM was the first demonstration project for the tools and platform, and now philanthropy is the second. Perhaps that’s the most important idea for Dreamforce this year.

It’s been true for a long time that Salesforce had a powerful platform. The thousands of independent vendors offering tens of thousands of apps through the AppExchange (and the millions of downloads) that are based on the platform provide ample evidence of its power. Combining all that with corporate social responsibility will further cement Salesforce’s attractiveness in the boardroom.

If you’re at Dreamforce next week, look up our session. It’s on Wednesday, 10 a.m., at the Union Square Hilton — but confirm it on the Dreamforce app, just in case it’s full. If philanthropy is on your radar this year, and it kinda should be, please stop by.

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

Denis Pombriant

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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