By Anna Hendry, originally posted on Inside the Salesforce Ecosystem.

“The business of business is improving the state of the world.” These words from CEO Marc Benioff serve as the guiding principle for the impact Salesforce wants to have on our community. And they describe why, when Salesforce was founded in 1999, the leadership team vowed to set aside 1% of the company’s equity, 1% of employees’ time, and 1% of its products to improve communities around the world.

It’s an idea that’s caught on. Following the 1–1–1 model that Salesforce pioneered, Pledge 1% encourages companies to dedicate 1% time, 1% product, 1% profit and/or 1% equity to improve the world. Since its launch, more than 1,900 companies have joined Pledge 1% to make the community a key stakeholder in their businesses.

It’s also why we encourage our Salesforce Ventures portfolio companies to integrate philanthropy into their culture. And more recently, we hosted our first ever Cloud Gives Back — an afternoon of volunteering for our portfolio companies, to help them turn those pledges into action.

If you are a bootstrapped early-stage company with limited time and resources, it can be easy to dismiss a philanthropic philosophy as something you formalize when you’re more established. But in addition to the benefit of improving the state of the world, there are a few other reasons to build this approach into your corporate DNA in the early stages of your company:

Attract & Retain Top Employees

Companies today are fighting for top talent, especially among millennial employees, who will comprise over 50% of the workplace by 2020. And unlike the generations that came before them, millennials are far more concerned with what their company can offer them beyond the traditional HR benefits.

In fact, 49% of millennials prefer for work for a company committed to positive social & environmental impact compared to only 13% of baby boomers, and six out of ten millennial employees say that a “sense of purpose” is part of the reason that they chose to work for their current employers.

Not only do millennials prefer to work for companies that give back, businesses that do have 2.3 times the employee retention than businesses that do not. Just as Vidyard CEO and Founder Michael Litt says:

“As a group of millennials with bleeding hearts, it’s not just about making money; it’s about making money that matters. And that’s what gets me out of bed every morning, and I think what gets the broader team out of bed every morning. And since we’ve started involving ourselves in corporate philanthropy, I’ve been in interviews, and one of the reasons they want to come to Vidyard is because of the impact we can provide through this program.”

Giving Back Helps Build Employee Morale

This past April, Salesforce Ventures brought together nine of our portfolio companies for our first-ever The Cloud Gives Back — an afternoon of volunteering. Over 100 employees joined us and volunteered at four different locations including Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco, La Casa De Las Madres, The Presidio Trust and the Surfrider Foundation.

Not only was the feedback extremely positive (multiple people asked us to host the event weekly), employees were able to bond with their coworkers outside their standard office environments all the while giving back to their communities.

Volunteers from Salesforce Ventures portfolio companies participate in our first-ever The Cloud Gives Back.

“It was great to get out of the office and actually feel like I was making a difference volunteering,” said Lauren Mallen, a marketing coordinator at FinancialForce.

An event such as this is an example of how striving towards a common goal and supporting a cause that you believe in can create a sense of community among your employees. And when charitable giving is a part of the culture, it encourages employees to spend time together in environments outside of the office, letting them get to know each other in contexts that go beyond the day-to-day workday challenges. Beyond that, it exposes them to new environments and ways of life and promotes a work-life balance, something that can often get overlooked in a startup.

Consumers Prefer Socially Responsible Companies

In addition to increased recruiting, retention and employee engagement, philanthropy and corporate responsibility efforts can also affect your company’s bottom line. According to Nielsen, 55 percent of global online consumers are willing to spend more on products from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.

And here’s the secret: Giving back doesn’t take much. Take employee time, for example. One percent of an eight-hour workday comes to just five minutes, roughly the amount of time it takes to grab a cup of coffee and heat up a Danish (and certainly less time than is spent recapping the most recent “Game of Thrones” or “American Gods”). But over the course of a year, that works out to 20 hours — a good amount of time for a good cause.

Amanda Kahlow, Founder and CEO of 6sense, says it best: “Making a commitment to Pledge 1% — that was one of the easiest decisions that I had to make as-as a CEO. We wanted to be a company that could grow revenue and drive a big profitable business, but also one that cares about the world.”


Anna Hendry is the Senior Marketing Manager for Salesforce Ventures at Salesforce. Follow Anna Hendry and @SalesforceVC on Twitter to stay up to date on the exciting activities in the Salesforce ecosystem. You can check out more photos from The Cloud Gives Back here.