Salesforce's Philanthropy Cloud makes it easier for employees to give back

Find out how Salesforce's Philanthropy Cloud uses AI to provide one and a half million ways for employees to engage in corporate philanthropy.

Salesforce's Philanthropy Cloud makes it easier for employees to give back Find out how Salesforce's Philanthropy Cloud uses AI to provide one and a half million ways for employees to engage in corporate philanthropy.

At Dreamforce 2019 in San Francisco, TechRepublic's Bill Detwiler spoke with Nick Bailey, VP of innovation and product at salesforce.org, about Salesforce's new Philanthropy Cloud product. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

Bill Detwiler: These days, philanthropy is a big part of what corporations do, and not just at the executive level, but really trying to push that down to their employees. I'm excited to be here with Nick Bailey to talk about Salesforce's philanthropy efforts and their new Philanthropy Cloud product. Tell me a little bit about Salesforce's philanthropy efforts and how philanthropy has been built into the DNA of the company since the very beginning.

Nick Bailey: It's great. Philanthropy really is the center of Salesforce's culture. When the company was started in 1999, Marc Benioff had this great idea for the 111 model, which is 1% of our product, 1% of our time, and 1% of our equity that the company was going to put into philanthropy and giving back to the community. He sort of jokes, it was easy at the time because we didn't really have a product; we didn't really have much time; and we didn't really how much money. But that's grown significantly over the years.

SEE: Hiring kit: Salesforce Developer (TechRepublic Premium)

That really has been the anchor in Salesforce's culture. One of the things that customers often ask us is, 'How has Salesforce built the culture that it has?' The answer really cuts to our core because we're focused on giving back and making sure that's part of who we are as a company and that we're grounded in the communities where we live and work.

Bill Detwiler: Expand that, and talk about how that has been, how the executive leadership has pushed that down throughout the organization. Some of the ways that Salesforce employees and the people at salesforce.org, the philanthropy arm for Salesforce, get involved at the individual level.

Nick Bailey: Everything sort of starts with Marc. He's a great philanthropist. He leads by example; that's who he is in the world, and he really encourages his employees to be that as well. When we think about corporate philanthropy, we say there are four pillars there. There's your culture, which really Marc is the center of that for us. There are your programs, which is what you do for your employees to actually help encourage them to give back in the world. For Salesforce, that means everybody gets 17 days off a year to volunteer. It means that we will match your donations and double your impact. Other companies have other ways they do that. 

It's your internal marketing, is the third pillar. That's not about going out into the world and talking about how much good you're doing. It's really about communicating to your employees about what's important to us, what are our values? Why should you get engaged and participate with your other employees? 

The fourth is the tools. For a long time we've had our own internal tools at Salesforce, but other customers of ours started asking, 'Can we have those tools?' For a long time, the answer was no, and now we're really excited that the answer is yes, actually, you can, with Philanthropy Cloud.

SEE: Hybrid cloud: A guide for IT pros (TechRepublic download)

Bill Detwiler: Tell me about Philanthropy Cloud. How does that tool work? How does it fit in with the rest of Salesforce's growing ecosystem of products, services, platforms?

Nick Bailey: Philanthropy Cloud--we launched it just a little over a year ago, actually at Dreamforce. We now have more than 100 customers that are participating. It comes out of the box with one and a half million ways for people to engage, and we use Einstein and AI in our recommendation engine to do two things. 

One, the company wants to share with employees what they care about and what is important to them and what do we all want to rally around, but employees also need to understand ways that they can engage in ways that they are passionate about. Einstein looks at things like what causes do you care about, what skills do you want to volunteer with, where do you live in the world? It looks through those one and a half million ways to engage and recommends the ones that are right just for you.

It's the perfect balance of helping people rally around something together within the company but also responding to people's individual needs and passions that may or may not align with what the companies do. Our customers have been very successful. We've seen engagement rates go up. We've seen the amount of dollars given go up. We've seen volunteering hours go up. It's been a really great journey so far.

Bill Detwiler: Is it about customizing the efforts--the options that employees have, that people have, to embody philanthropy, to do the things that they want to do, that they're passionate about and customize it to them--that you think has led to that increasing engagement? Having Einstein be the AI platform underneath it that does that without someone having to do it themselves?

Nick Bailey: Yep. That's exactly right. So I think there are two things to say about that. The first is, at Salesforce we've been at both ends of the spectrum. Completely top down. This is what we're doing. Everybody should do this. When companies do that, their engagement rates go down. 

At the other end of the spectrum is, anybody do whatever you want. We don't care, just go do good. When you do that, your engagement rates go up, but you don't have a great story, a compelling story--sort of an identity of what you're all doing together. Finding that balance, that sweet spot in the middle of here's what we want everyone to rally around together, but if you have something else we want to be a platform for you to go do good in the world with those things that you're passionate about.

One of the things that's been amazing to me in my career is how hard it is for people to find ways to engage. You might know what you care about; you might know what skills you have; you certainly know where you live; but taking those and combining them into finding a cause that you care about in your community or in the region you care about--that utilizes your skills, where you can actually get involved and take action and make a difference in a way that is tailored for you, and lets you have that level of impact that you want--is extraordinarily hard. 

That's where the power of technology comes in: we can say, here's all the things that you could do. Let's help find the thing that is made just for you so that you feel compelled to go back over and over and over again.

The old stereotype of corporate philanthropy is, one day a year we're all going to go, and you're going to paint the same wall and then call it a day. What we really want is for people to find things they're passionate about, make that connection, and be compelled to go back over and over again to really become deeply involved as a citizen philanthropist.

Bill Detwiler: And reduce the analysis paralysis that you sometimes get, right?

Nick Bailey: That's exactly right. There's just too many-

Bill Detwiler: Too many options that I can do. Talk a little bit about philanthropy in general, in the future with this Philanthropy Cloud. Where do you see Salesforce going, salesforce.org going, and how are you helping the customers integrate Philanthropy Cloud into their existing Salesforce implementations, into what they're doing, and to tell that compelling story to get everyone on board so that it's not just 'let's go out one day a year and volunteer.' It's about corporate donations to a specific cause in wherever the headquarters is located.

Nick Bailey: That's right. It's about really making that a core part of your culture and not a 'we have some values that we put on the wall and leave them there,' but really in a way that the company lives and breathes very day. Marc Benioff has a great quote that I love, which is, 'Values create value.' 

Everything that we're seeing in the world of corporate philanthropy is that it's completely changed in that it's no longer top down. It's not just a boardroom imperative; it's actually employee driven. They are demanding that companies provide them this platform to go participate in things that they're passionate about. What that really means is--for companies, in terms of creating value and making it part of their culture--this isn't like snacks and ping pong tables, right? This actually helps companies recruit and retain employees.

Consumers are willing to pay 6% more for products from a company that aligns with their values. They're more likely to recommend those products to others. Investors like BAWAG are coming out and saying, 'We are only going to invest in companies that are providing value.' 

The Business Roundtable that came out a few weeks ago just made a really strong statement about it. It really is becoming holistically integrated into the business, and I think there's not just a different expectation and demand from the community, but it's also coming from every other area: employees, investors. That has really led to companies--even the ones that haven't historically had a really strong program here--realizing that that has to be central to their culture and how they operate. When it comes to employee engagement, it's about a two-way conversation between leadership and employees.

It's sort of an old school corporate philanthropy--what does the CEO care about at the headquarters, like you mentioned earlier. New school is really employees saying, 'Well, here's what we care about.' The sweet spot is when employees can go take action on the things that they're passionate about, that are relevant for them, and the company gets insight into what all of their employees are doing and can align what the company cares about strategically--what the company's values are--with the values of their employees, and meet in the middle and use the company as a platform to lift up the things that are most relevant and meaningful to those employees, and sort of plucking out the things that are sticking out.

We have a new feature we're launching at Dreamforce this year called the employee champion. Every company has people that just naturally rally everyone--let's go do something good--but they're cobbling this together. It's like spreadsheets and emails and paper sign-up forms, and maybe we'll all do something. In Philanthropy Cloud, there are tools built just for them so they create content in the platform. They can recruit people; they can organize; they can inspire all of their fellow employees; and actually they'll execute on it in the world. But because it's all in that one simple platform, the company has total insight into what's happening in all of their offices.

Bill Detwiler: That allows them to tell that story and to make sure that--as an organization, as a group of people--they can be more effective together as opposed to just one person doing this, one person doing this, or one day a year.

Nick Bailey: That's right. Every individual can see what their contribution is, but you can also look at that collective contribution of the entire company, and you can look at that by our cost; you can look at it by sustainable development goals. That's something that companies spend thousands of dollars for every year. What were our contributions to the sustainable development goals, to understand how everyone has come together to create collective impact. 

The thing that really excites me is that's not just one employee and one company; that is hundreds of companies, and all of the nonprofits and schools that we work with at salesforce.org coming together to create this marketplace where people are collaborative in creating this impact that is quite bigger than any one person on their own.

Also see

Team teamwork business join hand together concept, Power of volunteer charity work, Stack of people hand

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto