Good employees are hard to find and it's in a company's best interest to recruit and keep as many of them as possible. One of the ways to do this is ensuring your organisation is attractive to work at. Money doesn't always inspire people to be loyal to an employer — but making them feel good about where they work can. Here's where philanthropy comes in.
Image: Salesforce staff packing books for charity.
Many organisations have corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies in place. This not only serves to ensure companies comply with the laws and ethics of countries they operate in, but also promotes companies to take action to bring about social and environmental improvements.
Some are more serious about giving back than others. There are companies that just throw money at charities in a perfunctory manner, just so they don't look like evil corporations that don't give a damn about helping people. Then there are companies like Salesforce that has built the concept of giving back to communities since its inception.
On the same day that Salesforce CEO, Marc Benioff, started the cloud computing company, he put in place a 1-1-1 Philanthropic model, which is a commitment to give one percent of its products, one percent of its equity and one percent of its time to charitable causes. Beneficiaries have included thousands of schools with over 1.1 million in grants given away. Its employees have collectively volunteered 1.1 million hours of their time to do good in their communities.
"Even though one per cent seems small, the impact goes a long way and we encourage other companies to do the same," Salesforce Foundation vice-president of philanthropy and engagement, Ebony Frelix, told Lifehacker Australia at Dreamforce in San Francisco. She believes the 1-1-1 philanthropy model can easily be integrated into different companies, regardless of size.
But why should companies care about all of this? After all, giving back would require them to actually sacrifice money and time when they could be focusing on increasing profits. According to Frelix, philanthropy is a great tool for staff recruitment and retention, but it has to be done right. Giving back has to be integrated into a business and cannot be an afterthought, she said.
In the case of Salesforce, the company gives each employees six days of paid leave strictly for volunteer work annually. Once a worker has completed those six days, they will be awarded US$1000 to give to any charity of their choosing. Salesforce also match employee donations dollar for dollar, up to US$5000. This has fostered a passion from Salesforces workforce to do more, Frelix said.
"People feel good when they give back. It's an immeasurable something you feel inside when you do that. That's the power of doing good and giving back is what makes employees feel good about working for a company," she said.
That feeling is something you can't give to your workers, no matter how many pay rises you give them.
"That's the retention and recruitment piece of philanthropy," Frelix said. "Our employees really get into it, because people want to feel good. I have a hard time getting them to take time off to do training to improve their careers but as soon I tell them to take an hour off to volunteer, they're all over it."
She has also found volunteer work contributes to team building and she has seen workers become closer through volunteering together.
So how can companies become more involved with giving back and making sure their corporate social responsibility programs go the distance? Frelix recommends giving employees the power to choose which charitable organisations they want to be involved with. That way, they will be more committed to their causes.
As for smaller companies that think they are too small to be considering philanthropy, think again. Putting a giving back culture in place while a company is still small will help cultivate a philanthropic culture as it grows.
"It doesn't necessarily have to involve money. Even if it's helping out at a soup kitchen or teaching underprivileged kids how to read - all these efforts can make a difference," Frelix said.
Spandas Lui travelled to San Francisco as a guest of Salesforce.