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October 11, 2016updated 13 Jan 2017 11:50am

Inside Salesforce.org – the cloud giant’s non-profit organisation

Salesforce.org created a new philanthropic model now adopted by many tech companies big and small. Charlotte Finn gives CBR access to the non-profit, explaining the model and vision for the company hoping to spark a worldwide corporate giving revolution.

By Ellie Burns

Salesforce.org is not to be confused with Salesforce.com, Charlotte Finn tells CBR. While the .com namesake is the cloud company with the well-known CRM product, the .org is a completely different corporate beast, as the Salesforce.org EMEA VP told CBR:

charlotte-finn

Charlotte Finn is VP at Salesforce.Org EMEA

“As a non-profit in our own right, with our own articles and so on, our work is for the benefit of society as a non-profit. Not for the benefit of Salesforce, and we are always really clear to say that. As a .org organisation we do not act for the benefit of Salesforce.com.”

Formerly known as the Salesforce Foundation, Salesforce.org is the philanthropic arm of Salesforce.com. While many companies today are vocal about their social responsibility, philanthropy and charity work, the corporate mindset was completely different back in 1999 when Benioff founded Salesforce. This was what made his non-profit proposal so different to anything else in the business world at that time.

Talking about how Benioff and Suzanna DiBanca, now Salesforce.com Chief Philanthropy Officer,  set about launching the non-profit, Ms Finn said:

“At the time, the two of them created what was really a visionary model and a complete change to the way that philanthropy by corporates was looked at. A lot of organisations still looked at it at that point as CSR and as an element of the account balance sheet that had to be done by law. Marc said, ‘absolutely not, if we are going to do it we are going to do it from day one and we are absolutely going to have it at the heart of Salesforce.’”

From the company’s very first day, Benioff pledged 1% of Salesforce’s equity, 1% of Salesforce’s product and 1% of Salesforce employee’s time to communities around the world. In a new 1-1-1 philanthropic model now much copied in the corporate world, Salesforce.org aims to leverage Salesforce’s technology, people and resources to help improve global communities.

1-1-1 salesforce

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Looking at the technology donation, Ms Finn estimates that Salesforce.org has helped drive 29,000 non-profits and higher education organisations using Salesforce technology. Explaining how it works the EMEA VP said:

“Every registered non-profit and higher education institute is eligible to receive 10 free licenses of Salesforce and that equates per annum to about a $250m technology donation. But the most important thing is that it enables even the smallest charity to be able to use exactly the same technology that the very largest corporate benefits from.”

Offering tailor-made products such as the Non-Profit Starter Pack, Salesforce.org generates the majority of its revenue from its non-profit and higher education customer base purchasing products. Although the company charges from the eleventh license, there is a 76% discount on the software making it a more affordable.

The revenue generated by these products is then fed back into the second donation, becoming the resources which the company draws upon for overheads and grants.

“From the eleventh license on, yes we charge, but it’s at an affordable rate and then that  money returns back to Salesforce.org. That money then covers our overheads and then more importantly it becomes what we class as our resources. What we do with that is reinvest that back into the non-profit community in the form of grants,” Ms Finn told CBR.

“Over the last 15 years we have granted in excess of a $120 million back out to the non-profit community.”

This year, the non-profit hopes to grant out in excess of $35m globally, with the company narrowing its focus on the education, workforce development and technology innovation categories. The grant process is anything short of easy, which every perspective non-profit and organisation being put through a thorough application process. For Salesforce.org, it’s all about what impact each and every grant will make.

“The hardest thing is saying no. We have a very vigorous process,” said Ms Finn.

“Every single penny that we grant out we have associated impact and key performance indicators. We would never just give a grant and then just leave it.’

The third donation in the 1-1-1 model relates to people, with Salesforce giving employees 7 days in which to volunteer. Ms Finn told CBR that the scheme allows employees to ‘pursue a passion for giving back’, giving examples of employees heading out to companies with no IT departments and teaching maths in a one-on-one school setting.

Not only does this aid the 1-1-1 philanthropic model, Ms Finn argues, it sculpts a certain culture in the organisation and aids in the well being of employees – and happy employees make for more motivated, productive employees who are more likely to stay with the company.

Citing a stat from Boston Consulting that engaged employees add just below $1500 a year to the bottom line of a business, Ms Finn said that getting employees involved in giving back to communities is one of the strongest business cases for firms to get involved in non-profit work.

“We know that the opportunity to give back and the opportunity to have a culture within your business which enables an employee to be engaged and give back absolutely benefits the company. It benefits employee retention – your employees are 2.3 times more likely to stay with you if they are engaged.

“That adds immediately to the bottom line. We know that increased employee satisfaction creates increased customer satisfaction, which therefore adds to the bottom line. We know if you decrease turnover and you increase retention that the growth of your business speeds up.”

There remains a certain number of people who regard corporate philanthropy with a cynical eye, arguing that charity work is nothing but a PR and brand exercise. However, Ms Finn argues that there has been a culture shift in the corporate world driven my social res

marc-benioff

CEO, Chairman of the Board and Founder, Salesforce, Inc.

ponsibility, the media and, first and foremost, by the employees themselves.

“Employees are not allowing companies anymore to just pay lip service. Even if a company now starts it off by just thinking PR, they are not able to do that because employees are not letting them.

“I think that says a huge amount about the culture of organisations nowadays. It’s so much more accepted to want to give back and companies understand that giving back now truly now means something, it doesn’t just mean sponsoring a football strip.”

Salesforce.org wants other companies to look at the 1-1-1 model and the impact it has on society, business culture and bottom line and be inspired to follow suit. The business case for philanthropy is clear in how it encourages, motivates and retains employees, while communities in need can certainly benefit from the expertise, resources and time of big companies.

Salesforce has created a sustainable cycle of putting back into the non-profit community, a dynamic relationship which benefits all parties that participate.

Today, thanks to models championed by the likes of Salesforce.org, ‘philanthropy is not something that you do from a PR perspective anymore,” according to Ms Finn.

“If you ingrain it into the culture of your organisation, actually it benefits from day one the growth and motivation of your organisation.”

 

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