Staff not CEO driving corporate giving

Salesforce Foundation’s Suzanne DiBianca reveals changes she is seeing in corporate social responsibility – including a new ‘bottom-up’ approach.  

Suzanne Di BiancaNew employees are taking jobs based on a company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity. This was one of the trends in corporate philanthropy revealed by Salesforce Foundation’s president and co-founder, Suzanne DiBianca (pictured right) during a recent visit to Australia from the United States. 

“The promising thing about today’s CSR landscape is that it’s growing and it’s becoming a movement,” she said. “It’s moving away from the marketing department and entering HR. In Silicon Valley young graduates and employees are accepting jobs depending upon whether a company has a CSR initiative in place.” 

“We’re seeing companies competing based on who has the best CSR strategy and who makes their employees feel good on a community service level,” she added. “It’s becoming core to corporate company culture and ultimately, that’s helping not-for-profits grow and achieve.”

The Salesforce Foundation was established 15 years ago by Salesforce – the customer relationship management platform. Of DiBianca’s own feelings as an employee she said, “I’ve always had an inherent need to give back in some way.” Initially, she reveals, she had been “skeptical” of Salesforce’s motives as “at the time there were a lot of corporates talking about philanthropy but in reality they just wanted to be seento be doing something.”

However, when helping to establish the Salesforce Foundation she was taken by its founding philosophy: to leverage 1% of the company’s product, equity and time to improve communities around the world - called the 1:1:1 model. The Foundation now offers the Salesforce product at a discount to 23,000 charities, has provided $73 million in funding grants to charity, and helped Salesforce staff to clock up 743,000 hours as volunteers.

On top of the growing importance of a company’s CSR to new employees, DiBianca has noticed a switch to CSR being “bottom up rather than top down.” 

“Philanthropy used to be very top down, depending on what the CEO liked, and it is not that way anymore,” she said. “It’s now more democratically driven.” 

“This is an important lesson because if you want philanthropy to be real and not just something that’s stamped on your marketing collateral, you’ve got to have the company’s people own and drive it.” 

For charities, understanding these key developments in the corporate sector can help with devising strategies that make it easier to successfully secure and retain corporate partnerships.