By Sean Dukes, Owner and CEO of Learnsmarter.  Originally published on Medium.

The first time I heard about 1:1:1, the Salesforce philanthropy model, was at Dreamforce Europe 2008. Back then, Salesforce’s visit to London was a two-day event, held at the Barbican Centre. I discovered several interesting things during those two days (including ‘Platform as a Service,’ which sowed the seed for the creation of Learnsmarter), but the 1:1:1 model really made an impression on me — especially when Marc Benioff asked all the not-for-profit customers in the audience to stand up and everyone applauded.

For those of you not familiar with the concept of 1:1:1, it’s a philanthropic model where a business gives 1% of its equity, 1% of its product, and 1% of its time to good causes. Salesforce has done this from the start, and in that time has donated over two million employee hours, hundreds of millions of dollars of product value, and over $160 million in cash grants to good causes around the world.

It’s easy to say that Salesforce can do that because they’re a big company, but smaller companies can deliver on the 1:1:1 model, too.

We were slow starters, but we’ve been steadily moving towards 1:1:1 and I’m proud that in 2016 we finally took the 1% pledge. The thing is, it’s easy to pledge, but it’s action that counts.

1% Equity

The equity bit was done quite some time ago. When we did our first small funding round, we set aside 1% of the shares for the planet and registered this at Companies House. We’ve had a couple of small raises since then and have maintained the 1% stake. It’s pretty simple: what we do is issue one new share to the planet for every 99 we issue to anyone else.

1% Product

Product is even easier and we simply offer a discount for not-for-profits. It’s a minimum of 10% and can be much higher. We can’t directly control our customer mix of course, so the exact percentage of the benefit goes up and down. It has been more than 1% and although it isn’t there right now, we certainly hope that we get back to at least that level soon.

1% Time

Time is the tricky one. I can absolutely see the benefits of sending a group of employees out to work with a charity, but the truth is that our customers would probably notice if nobody turned up for the day. The idea that there are alternatives to having everyone out of the office was introduced to me when I decided to spend the night in a cardboard box.

Trinity Winchester is a charity that works with homeless and vulnerable people in Winchester where we have our offices. I see homeless people every day and wanted to do something positive to help. The ‘Big Sleep Out’ was an easy thing to sign up for and it was even quite good fun. I’m doing it again this year if anyone wants to sponsor me!

The Solution to Our Time Problem: Micro-Volunteering

Chatting to one of the Trinity staff the morning after the Big Sleep Out, I was talking about how we’d like to help more, but that finding the time was a bit of a problem. They explained that there are plenty of ways to contribute that don’t involve a huge time commitment. This is a concept known as ‘micro-volunteering.’

Another thing Trinity does is to provide a hot meal every day to those in need. The supermarket supplies the food for free, but this needs to be delivered. You can volunteer by dropping into Sainsbury’s on your way into work, filling up with half a dozen boxes of produce and then taking these to the Trinity kitchen. If any of my staff do this twice a month and get in 45 minutes later than normal, then they’ve done a great thing and we’ve delivered on our volunteering commitment in a way that we’ll hardly even notice, and that doesn’t negatively impact on our customers.

Of course, not everyone has a car or drives into work, so having got the micro-volunteering idea into my head, I started to search around for other opportunities. These aren’t hard to find.

A Few Other Solutions If You’re Short on Time

One organization looking for help is the UN. I’d always thought that volunteering for the UN would involve traveling to a conflict zone and working with refugees or something like that. It’s a great and incredible thing to do, but not necessarily something that’s very practical for us. However, if you visit, you can also sign up to volunteer online and access a range of opportunities — there’s plenty of translation work and requests for website builders.

Searching through the options, I came across a project that was a perfect fit for us.

The Tanzania Development Trust has a project that rescues girls who are threatened by FGM and takes them to a safe house. But they have a problem: unbelievable as it sounds, in Northern Tanzania there are almost no reliable maps. The rescuers are unable to reach girls in danger because they simply don’t know how to get there.

To create more effective maps, there’s an open-source mapping project that you can sign up for at They select an area to work on and divide it into squares, then volunteers pick an unfinished square, overlay it with a Bing map and draw in roads, buildings, and other features. People on the ground in Tanzania add in place names and then the maps are available to use. It’s a simple thing to do, but very useful. Another way to help is to donate your old phones: operatives on the ground need smartphones so that they can participate in the project. If you have phones to donate, then you can contact the trust via their website (they want old laptops, too).

Making a Difference — and Seeing It

We’ve held one team ‘mapathon’ to date, and I’m delighted if any of my staff want to do a bit of mapping for an hour or so on any given day. What’s great, apart from the fact that it’s a really good cause, is that you can donate as much or as little time as you have and you’re making a difference: more girls were rescued last year and mapping played a direct part in that.

The final thing is to make sure we meet our target. You’ve probably heard the expression ‘what gets measured gets done,’ so of course we have built an object in Salesforce and a simple dashboard to measure this.

When we pledged 1%, we were signing up to an ideal without a clear idea about how we were going to deliver. Micro volunteering has given us the tool we needed to turn that aspiration into action. I’m not just proud to have pledged; I’m proud of what we are achieving too.