Friday, June 25, 2010

One Gets Multiplied

Green is good, but sometimes action and expertise pack an added wallop. Philanthropic groups can always use a little extra financial support, but the vigorous energy and informed skills of businesses can also do a lot to boost social good. That's the mindset behind the "1/1/1" model of philanthropic giving, in which businesses donate one percent of their equity, but also one percent of their product and one percent of employee's time.

Put simply, it's the power of one compounded.

All this week, I've been profiling the "power of one" trend in business philanthropy. On Monday, I explored the "buy one, give one" model in which businesses donate one product for each one sold. On Wednesday, I delved into the "one for humanity" facet of the movement, where businesses contribute one percent of their revenue to a cause. The 1/1/1 model evolved organically from the two, leveraging the built-in benefits of market expertise to support social good on a variety of levels.

Widely credited with originating the concept, cloud computing company SalesForce and its dynamic, celebrated CEO Marc Benioff have done lots to popularize the 1/1/1 concept. SalesForce, through its charitable arm, the Foundation, started by donating 1% of founding stock in the form of grants to qualified nonprofits specializing in youth development and technological innovation.

Their efforts expanded from there. Next SalesForce offered employees six paid days of volunteer time each year. To date, those volunteers, often partnering with groups of their own choosing, have worked 38,126 hours, mentored 178 young students, served 57,340 meals to the homeless and given 159 units of blood.

But perhaps the most inventive part of SalesForce's giving structure is their 1% of product donated. So often, businesses large and small possess a wealth of knowledge and know-how. Realizing this, the SalesForce Foundation started donating 1% of their cloud-computing applications and licenses, then training nonprofits in the use of them, offering advice and assistance in their specialty areas of sales, service and customer relationship management. By sharing their time, tech and accumulated knowledge with the philanthropic community, Sales Force has established itself as a leader in the 21st century integration of business and giving.

Others have followed their example, too. The funky, Australian-based software development company Atlassian, as noted last month on this blog, is in the midst of a dynamic 1/1/1 iniatitive with their Causium software distribution model. Noticing flagging sales of a software product tailored to small business, Atlassian decided to give away the product at an ultra-low price, or "micropayment," then donate the profits to the literacy group Room to Read.

But Atlassian didn't want to cut any corners, so employees chipped in to supply Causium buyers with free tech support and training for the software. So far the effort has been staggeringly successful, raising $500,000 for Room to Read, and leaving Atlassian determined to cross to cross the million dollar mark.

Other businesses have hopped onboard as well. Another cloud computing company, C-Level Management has drafted a series of "Giving Back" philanthropy goals based on the 1/1/1 model and similarly patterned after the notion of sharing their expertise, here in the form of consulting grants to nonprofits and educational institutions. NewVoiceMedia, a telephony technology developer based in the UK, has also crafted a program of paid volunteer days for employees, as well as product donations and discounts to qualified charities.

By integrating their success with the wellbeing of society, SalesForce and similar companies have forged a dynamic new role for business. Multiplying by one, it turns out, can yield huge dividends.

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