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4 Hard-Won Corporate Philanthropy Lessons

By March 12, 2018

What We Learned the Hard Way, so You Don’t Have To

By: Jon Stahl and Dave Manelski, Product Managers

We’ve heard from people at other companies and nonprofits that they’ve wanted better ways to connect employees and causes. For example:

  • Of all the causes out there, how do I find the opportunities that match my interests and availability?
  • If I can’t give a million dollars, how can I make sure my modest donation makes the most impact?
  • How can I find volunteering opportunities that can make the most of my professional skills?
  • Why can’t finding volunteering, giving, and pro bono opportunities be as easy as getting recommendations on movies to watch?

Philanthropy CloudFor many years, Salesforce has had an internal employee volunteering and giving platform called Volunteerforce. Our customers often ask us, “How can I get something like that for my company?” Philanthropy Cloud* is our answer to that question, and it draws on our nearly twenty years of experience helping our employees give to, volunteer with, and engage with nonprofits in their communities.

Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned about how to effectively make more of an impact – and it’s not just through technology.

1. It’s more than technology

A few years ago put a basic version of Volunteerforce on the AppExchange. People installed it and liked the idea, but it didn’t come with curated volunteering opportunities or a live database of eligible nonprofits to give to. Not every company has a corporate social responsibility team to organize volunteering opportunities or fulfill matching gifts. And, even more importantly, not every company has built giving into the bedrock of their corporate culture. Smart technology can support a culture of giving back, but it’s vital to have content and services behind the scenes.

That’s why United Way is a key partner for Philanthropy Cloud. is bringing the technology, and United Way is the leader in workplace philanthropy, working with 120,000 companies on their corporate social responsibility programs and services. Philanthropy Cloud combines innovation with the content and services to help your company build world-class employee engagement programs.

2. Growth requires great UX

In the first version of Volunteerforce, it could take up to 5 minutes to request a matching gift or or log volunteer hours. “I love this tool, but it’s too slow!” our colleagues told us. In the current version of Volunteerforce it now takes 30 seconds or less. That investment in user experience (UX) has paid off in the form of more people logging hours and engaging more. Speed is usability, and usability is engagement.

This inspired how we are building world-class user experience into Philanthropy Cloud from day one. It’s fast, but beyond speed we are aiming to delight the user at every turn. It’s simple. It’s easy to use. And not just for employees, but also for the CSR program managers who need to administer their programs every day.

3. Personalize, personalize, personalize

Lots of people want to give, but they’re not quite sure how to connect their interests to specific organizations or opportunities. But it’s not as simple as just telling people to support a signature corporate initiative or program. Employees now expect companies to support their individual passions and priorities, not give them one-size-fits-all answers. This means that offering each employee personalized recommendations is the key to building effective, highly engaging next-generation corporate philanthropy programs.

With Salesforce Einstein AI technology, Philanthropy Cloud can intelligently sift through millions of opportunities to create personalized giving recommendations. For example, Einstein can surface the most relevant nonprofits, impact funds, fundraising campaigns and related stories based on an employee’s interests, location, giving history and other signals.

Here’s an example of a page with recommendations: Philanthropy Cloud is a new platform for employee engagement through corporate giving and volunteering.

4. Let employees lead and drive purpose with their leaders

Often, companies have a top-down strategic approach to causes they care about. The company supports whatever the CEO’s pet cause is. That leads to a lower level of participation in corporate philanthropy programs.

However, companies can have more of an impact in if employees can share their own causes and rally their colleagues. Philanthropy Cloud is built with this two-way conversation in mind: employees can engage with the causes that matter to them, and company leadership can support those causes as well as take a bigger picture stance around strategic initiatives like workforce development.

Doing Well by Doing Good

Corporate philanthropy contributes to business results. As this Harvard Business Review article notes, “Using philanthropy to enhance context brings social and economic goals into alignment and improves a company’s long-term business prospects….Philanthropy can often be the most cost-effective way for a company to improve its competitive context, enabling companies to leverage the efforts and infrastructure of nonprofits and other institutions.” Additionally, Harvard Business School professor George Serafeim notes that “Firms making investments on material ESG [environmental, social, and governance] issues outperform their peers in the future in terms of risk-adjusted stock price performance, sales growth, and profitability margin growth.” Doing good helps companies do well. Lastly, having a “social license to operate” is also seen as important for companies that want to do business more effectively. Quite simply, it helps lower business risk when your stakeholders like you.

Want to improve your employee engagement and corporate social responsibility efforts at your organization? Let’s have a conversation about corporate philanthropy at your company.

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About the Authors
Jon StahlJon Stahl
Jon is part of the Philanthropy Cloud product management team. Prior to Philanthropy Cloud, he was the product manager for Volunteerforce, the Salesforce internal employee giving and volunteering app.

Dave Manelski
Dave ManelskiDave wants to help accelerate people on a mission. On the Philanthropy Cloud team, he is building the next generation of philanthropy tools for companies and individuals. He works closely with customers, partners, and across internal teams to help people scale their impact and deepen their engagement.

*Any unreleased services or features referenced herein are not currently available and may not be delivered on time or at all. Customers who purchase our services should make their purchase decisions based upon features and products that are currently available.