By Lina Caneva.  Originally published on Pro Bono Australia.

Having drawn inspiration from the CSR work of the world’s corporate titans, global online software company Salesforce is hoping to mentor and encourage other companies to take on its pioneering model of corporate philanthropy, writes Nadia Boyce in this week’s Executive Insight.
The Salesforce Foundation was created 15 years ago based on a simple idea: to leverage one per cent of the company’s product, equity and time to improve communities around the world. The Foundation works closely with the company, acting as a delivery mechanism for its numerous CSR initiatives.

The Foundation’s new integrated philanthropic approach is called the 1-1-1 model, and Salesforce is now striving to share it with other corporates, developing a standalone program, Pledge 1%, in order to do so.

Behind Pledge 1% is Suzanne DiBianca, President and co-founder of the Foundation and member of a number of boards and advisory councils in the community, including the World Affairs Council’s Global Philanthropy Forum and the Entrepreneurs Foundation. She and her team seek to inspire other corporations to adopt their approach and prove that effective corporate philanthropy is, in fact, not all that difficult.

This week DiBianca is Down Under to spread the word about Pledge 1%, having already had some success in Australia through her mentoring of the CEO of Australian tech company Atlassian.

Pro Bono Australia News spoke with her about the initiative, its future in Australia and how corporate philanthropy is transforming – for the better.

Scanning for Need, Strategising for Change

The roots of Pledge 1% stretch back fifteen years, when Salesforce, and its Foundation, were in their early days.

“When we started the company, we said we’re going to do things differently..[part of that was] a new philanthropy model,” DiBianca says.

“I did an industry scan and asked, ‘what are the best practices for philanthropy in the corporate world?’ I found there were three domains where people could make a big difference, and that’s where the one per cent model came together.”

“One of the things that we learned doing this scan was that most companies are disintermediated with their philanthropic strategy. That is, they send people one place, they write cheques somewhere else, and they give their product somewhere else. It’s not connected.”

DiBianca looked to the corporate philanthropy strategies of major companies to find inspiration for Salesforce.

“Firstly, it’s one per cent time – we learned that from [toy company] Hasbro. We gave all employees six paid days to do volunteer work, and now we’re at about 800,00 volunteer hours globally,” DiBianca explains.

“The second was product. We learned that from [networking firm] Cisco. They were the first leaders in giving your products at a discounted rate to the NGO sector.”

The Foundation’s model for grants encourages young enterprises to leverage the stock market, an idea DiBianca says she got from online auction platform eBay.

Before companies launch on the stock market and open up shares to the public, the model recommends that a percentage of stock is put into a foundation structure. When the company goes public, that stock is essentially turned into grant money.

“Once the company’s stock has value, you suddenly have all this money to give away and you don’t have to rely on shareholders to get permission to do it,” DiBianca says. “I’m, really fired up on the equity side. We went from zero to $20 million in our Foundation in our first day [of going public].”

Since adopting the 1-1-1 approach, the Salesforce Foundation has given over $80 million in grants.

The ultimate strength of the 1-1-1 is its universality, DiBianca says.

“It is something that every company on the planet has – every company has those three aspects. They all have people, they all have money and they all have product.

“Some are more relevant to the non-profit sector than others, especially on the product side…  [but] there’s a place for you to give your product no matter who you are!” she says, enthusiastically recalling a product partnership between Energiser batteries and robotics organisations.

Pushing The Pledge

With the establishment of Pledge 1% as a stand-alone initiative, the focus for the Salesforce Foundation shifted to finding strategic partners worldwide to drive its rollout.

DiBianca explains that rather than creating new Not for Profit organisations, the intent is to support existing Not for Profit organisations to administer the program.

“We started in the US with a group called the Entrepreneurs Foundation in Boulder, Colorado,” she says. “Here in Australia, we’re partnering with Australian Philanthropic Services Group (APS).

“We’re very focused on the equity part, and every country has different tax rules, so we’re trying to find the best local partners.

“Entrepreneurs are very busy, they don’t have a lot of time. Pledge 1% is to take the myth away that it’s hard to do this, because it’s not hard to do it, and also to help entrepreneurs execute quickly and execute really easily.”

DiBianca mentored Australian software company Atlassian’s Scott Farquhar, who is now a founding member of the Pledge 1% program, with two other Australian companies, eWAY and Ansarada, set to join next week. Leading companies like Google and Yelp have also adopted all or part of Salesforce’s 1-1-1 model.

DiBianca expects to extend beyond the tech sector.

“The groups we learned from weren’t all tech companies. It just happens to be that our network happens to be mostly tech companies, but every company on earth has these assets. They all have people, product and money, it’s just how they want to use that to better the community,” she says.

“Now, if I look at where we are today, and the incredible work and leadership of other companies like Atlassian, we luckily got out the gates first. Just like I learned from Hasbro and Cisco and eBay, they’ve learned from us. We’ve been really excited to share everything that we’ve learned with this whole next generation of companies.”

“When I started in this job and we were a small company, I looked to the bigger companies. I looked to Cisco, and wondered, how can I learn from them? People look to them as leaders.”

Part of DiBianca’s Australian trip is to now encourage local corporates to drive the 1-1-1 model and to scout for prospective Not for Profit partners.

“We’ve gotten a lot of interest and a lot of momentum. People just want to know what to do and how to do it,” she says.

“Atlassian – they’ve put their money where their mouth is, they’re just fantastic. Another one is Campaign Monitor – they’re doing some product donations. My sense is that they’ll go bigger when the time is right for them.

“We’re trying to find NFPs that are excellent in this area and list them up. We’re just trying to find great organisations and put some wind into their sails.”

Some Australian Not for Profit organisations have already benefited from the Pledge 1% program, including Homeless Connect and Volunteering Queensland.

The Changing Face of Corporate Philanthropy

In the 15 years she has worked in her role, DiBianca has seen some seismic shifts in the way corporate philanthropy is managed and where it is directed.

“Corporate philanthropy is starting to leave the marketing department and its entering HR. I think that’s a good trend, because HR is the heartbeat of the company,” she says.

“Marketing is your brand. Not that philanthropy is not important to the brand…but I’m starting to see all these companies building CSR into their HR departments, and I like that a lot. I think it’s the right place for CSR to live.

“I’m also starting to see that philanthropy used to be very top down, depending on what the CEO liked, and it is not that way any more. It is very democratically driven, bottom-up rather than top-down.

“If you want philanthropy to be real and not just something that’s stamped on a brochure, or on your signs at an event, you’ve got to have your people own and drive it, so it’s totally appropriate. I’ve really seen that in the last ten years.”

DiBianca says she sees a shift towards companies and foundations working with a limited number of major benefactors.

“We made this mistake, we spread our money out with a lot of small grants and a lot of organisations and we just really learned that our best use of our money was when we could put our people, our money and our product all together in the same place,” she says.

“It doesn’t matter if you have a separate foundation or if it’s part of your company, we have different models operating in different parts of the world. What matters is whether the company is willing to invest in it regardless and can you make it part of your policies and procedures as a company.

“I’m just really pleased with where I think this is going in Australia.

“There’s a new kind of company that we’re starting to see – either old companies are getting on this program because their employees are demanding it, or new companies becoming involved in their startup process – but part of the reason I came here first is that I’m seeing lots of interest in this [Australian] market, but also a lot of action.

“I think it’s a great sign.”