The technology industry is thriving, fueled by a rise in innovative startups, an influx of venture capital funding and the promise of high value initial public offerings. Facebook’s IPO is poised to be the largest U.S. stock market debut of all time, and Steve Jobs left a legacy that forever raises the bar on innovation and leadership in the industry.
While the size and success of these behemoths is the exception, technology companies of any size have the opportunity and responsibility to give back. Social philanthropy not only benefits the recipients but has innumerable benefits to the giver. A culture of giving can be a powerful force in the tech talent war, as more people seek work that embodies personal, professional and philanthropic ideals. This is especially true for new workers who want to bring their whole person to work, with an ability to do work while contributing to the greater good.
Philanthropy is not only a worthwhile ideal but an expectation of a company’s brand promise to its customers. A recent survey of global C-suite executives revealed that 84% believe that society expects businesses to take a more active role in environmental, social, and political issues than it did five years ago. Corporate philanthropy allows us to fulfill the expectations of this social contract, and should be the mission of every technology company.
There are many philanthropic leaders in the technology industry. Bill and Melinda Gates set a high bar for charitable giving – donating more than $26 billion since 1994 – in return for the dramatic success they achieved in the tech industry. The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation have given more than $700 million in grants to help transform the lives of children.
There are only a handful of companies with coffers as deep as Bill Gates, Michael Dell or Mark Zuckerberg. Yet, it does not take deep pockets to embrace a social mission. Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, wife of Netscape founder and venture investor Marc Andreessen, provides an example of how technology companies of any size can lead the way in giving back. Arillaga-Andreesen created SV2 (Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund), a giving circle that pools contributions and then grants the collective funds. Over the past 13 years, 175 donors have financed more than 30 early-stage nonprofits and last year gave away nearly $500,000.
Across Silicon Valley, companies of all sizes – large or startup — are tapping into their own product DNA to create innovative ways to give back and promote philanthropy organically.
Whether giving voice to those championing social causes, providing tools that facilitate the work of nonprofits or providing grants and donations, technology companies can tap into facets of everyday life through social, mobile, or gaming to help the greater good. There are many companies in the tech industry that are beginning to do just that.
For example, Cloudflare, a Web security service that watches over clients’ sites and can protect all when one is attacked offers an example of using your platform for social good. The Committee to Protect Journalists contacted Cloudflare about a journalist in Angola who was reporting about human rights abuses. Government supporters were attempting to silence the journalist by attacking his website. While they were searching house to house to try to find the reporter, Cloudflare was able to protect his words on the Internet.
Companies can also embrace the social mission by advancing and giving back to the communities they serve. Elance, the leading platform for online work, serves startup companies by providing access to resources and skilled talent that allow them to take their ideas to market more quickly and at a lower cost. The company recently $1 million to the Startup America Partnership in order to help young companies grow and create jobs throughout the country, fundamental principles that Elance shares as a company. The pledge reflects Elance’s corporate values and allows them to give back to the entrepreneurial community they serve.
At SlideRocket, we are utilizing our presentation platform to elevate the visibility of nonprofits and charitable organizations with programs like the ‘Make an Impact’ Nonprofit Presentation Contest. The contest that provides an opportunity for deserving nonprofits whose presentations receive the most views and are judged by the panel to have the best story, composition and impact to split $30,000 in donations. With more than 40 entries, we were able to provide the platform for organizations to spread the word about their cause and potentially win a sizable donation.
Technology has played a role in many recent pivotal world events from supporting victims of natural disasters to advocating for democracy. It is not enough, however to provide consumers, journalists and businesses with tools to change the world – we must actively take part in that change. The technology company of the future will not be measured by what we create but how we engaged and participated in a bigger vision.