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How Salesforce Built a Pro Bono Impact Program And How You Can Too

By October 26, 2017

Salesforce celebrates Pro Bono Week #WhyIProBono

At Salesforce, philanthropy was built into our DNA from day one, when our Founder, Marc Benioff decided that he would set aside 1% of product, 1% of resource and 1% of Salesforce employee’s time to support nonprofit causes. Since then, our philanthropy has evolved into much more than a model – today, is a nonprofit social enterprise that’s committed to getting technology into the hands of nonprofits and educational organizations hands to drive more impact in the world. As a social enterprise, the more missions our technology supports, the more we invest back into technology and communities, creating an endless circle of good.

Just like the 1-1-1 model, our volunteering programs are constantly changing and developing in response to the ebb and flow of internal and external forces. One program that’s changed quite substantially over the last number of years, and which we’re particularly proud of, is our Pro Bono Program, which connects Salesforce employees with nonprofit and educational organizations facing challenges that they just can’t solve with their own resources.

Since the program was formalized three years ago, Salesforce employees have volunteered 166,000 pro bono hours with 5,700 organizations in 67 countries!

Why Pro bono?

For Salesforce, it was a natural progression. Our employees were already using their Volunteering Time Off to support nonprofits with Salesforce/legal/marketing skills and realizing the benefits for both themselves and for the organizations they were supporting. At, we wanted to maximize this and enable more of our staff and more nonprofit organizations to experience these benefits too.

Did you know that today, pro bono volunteering is THE fastest growing form of corporate volunteerism? And that’s no coincidence – there’s a growing trend in young professionals wanting to find more meaningful and purpose driven experiences at work. Even way back in 2007, Deloitte’s Volunteer Impact Survey found that 62% of Millennial workers would prefer to work for a company that provides opportunities to apply their skills to benefit nonprofits. More recently, the 2015 Millennial Impact Report highlighted how 77% of millennials would be more likely to volunteer when they can use their specific skills or expertise to benefit a cause.

And when applied, there are real benefits for both employees and companies – which we are now experiencing too. In a Salesforce employee survey, we found that 92% of employees were happier when participating in pro bono activities, giving them the opportunity to build both personal and professional skills, make new connections, and make a lasting impact in the world.

How to Set-up a Pro Bono Program

Developing a pro bono program doesn’t need to be a daunting task, but it does need a bit of planning and resourcefulness. Agility is key too – things change all the time in a business, so your program should be flexible enough to adapt to changes, both internally and externally. Here are some recommendations we think will be most useful if you decide to develop a pro bono program at your company.

Identify a core employee skill set

A company’s talent is one of it’s biggest assets and those assets are equally important for the pro bono opportunities. For Salesforce, our specialty is no surprise, Salesforce technology. Within Salesforce we have a world class consulting and services team that are the best in the business at enabling companies on our technology. Aligning your pro bono service offerings to the core strengths of your employees benefits the company, the volunteers and the organizations availing of the pro bono service!

Align with YOUR company values‘s main aim is to put technology into the hands of social impact organizations to help them achieve their mission. For us, connecting Salesforce employees to social impact organization’s using our technology made perfect sense, and that’s where we focus our program. Identifying your core values and understanding what social impact you aim to achieve will help you identify who you want to serve and how to select those organizations.

Maintaining balance for your employees

Another key decision on the program design was how we could tap into our employee’s time. Salesforce employees have 56 hours of paid volunteer time off which is an amazing perk, but we had to also take into account that they are balancing that time on top of their day jobs, family commitments and life. With that in mind, we designed our pro bono program around short 10-20 engagements with a flexible delivery timeline so that our employees can engage without feeling overloaded.

Build structure and engagement plan

Once you’ve identified who you will serve, and the services you will offer, you need a way to make the match. At Salesforce we use our own technology to receive pro bono requests and we use our own internal employee communication, groups and networks to engage employees. Do you have an internal system that can support matching employees to opportunities? Getting started, a spreadsheet should work fine, but as you scale your program, you should consider investing in a platform to help support those matches.

Evaluate! Evaluate! Evaluate!

As your program is getting started and growing you will want to be able to demonstrate the value. Salesforce solicits feedback from volunteers annually and from nonprofits after every pro bono engagement. This gives us the data and insights we need to make programmatic adjustments and also to communicate the value of the program to our teams. How do you do internal evaluations on other projects? Could you leverage existing feedback and impact reporting mechanisms to support pro bono reviews?

There’s no better way to close a post on pro bono with a quote from the co-founder of Salesforce himself, Parker Harris: “Every time I get out of the office and help a non-profit, whether that is Visitation Valley Middle School, my children’s schools or great organizations like Larkin Street, Hamilton House and, it gives me the perspective of the greater mission we are on as a company and humbles me as a human being.”

That spirit embodies the culture of giving back at Salesforce.

Additional Resources:

* Consultants, Taproot Foundation and Common Impact advise and support companies to build their own programs.
* Pledge 1% / Founder’s Pledge

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