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December 12, 2019, Article

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Tech companies find creative ways to give back

Originally published on Tech Republic.

WELL employees picked mandarin oranges for a food bank in Santa Barbara. Workers at Aadya bought Healthy Roots dolls for kids in Detroit from a startup toy company. Omintracs employees will place wreaths on the graves of military veterans on Wreaths Across America Day on Dec. 14.

Starting in November and stretching through this month, tech companies are marking the holiday season with donation drives, financial contributions, and volunteer projects.

Salesforce has some of the biggest global ambitions to make a difference. At Dreamforce, Salesforce kicked off a Year of Action for the Sustainable Development Goals from the United Nations – 17 global goals that measure collective progress against the world’s biggest challenges.

Over the next year, Salesforce will donate $17 million to advance the SDGs through grants to its nonprofit partners and company matches to employee donations.

According to Deloitte, millennials, baby boomers, retirees, and Gen Xers want to support social impact work in the corporate sector, which could offer a competitive edge in hiring.

Tech companies can strengthen local communities and build a more loyal workforce by establishing meaningful social impact programs. Here are a few of the ways employees and executives are giving back this season.

Unique volunteer projects

Many companies stick with go-to holiday projects such as food and toy drives. Others find ways to support people and animals in need.

The cybersecurity company ReliaQuest sponsors Bike Build, an event that assembles bikes for foster kids in Tampa. The nonprofit onbikes holds the annual event to provide kids with their very first bike. ReliaQuest employees will help out at the event as well.

Sigstr employees are supporting a dog rescue group with the “Dogs First, Sigstr Second” campaign. Justin Keller, vice president of marketing for the email signature marketing platform, said that team members meet clients on a target account list, and the company makes a donation to rescue a homeless dog on the employee’s behalf.

The software development company Chetu supported a tree-planting initiative in India last month. Team members volunteered with Mission 100 Crore Tree Plantation to add trees in a region that has poor air quality.

Chetu said its employees donated over 30 hours to the initiative last month and would continue to invest in this initiative in the future.

Donating technical expertise

Many companies use their particular technical skillset to support causes.

DataRobot, an artificial intelligence company, has an AI for Good program that works with educational institutes, hospitals, and environmental nonprofits.

The company shares technology, time, and resources with the organizations to make sure their machine learning applications generate real, long-term value.

Legacybox will help families in Southern California preserve memories from the holidays and throughout the year by donating $100,000 in digitizing kits to residents in communities at risk of wildfires. Residents can get slides, films, and audio recordings converted to digital format as a download, on a zip drive, or a DVD.

Ada, a marketing automation firm, partnered with a tech-centric nonprofit to develop the Chalmers chatbot designed for Toronto’s homeless community. This service provides 24/7 access to information about where to get free meals and clothing as well as open shelter space.

“At Ada, we’re inspired by our namesake Ada Lovelace, whose legacy reminds us to challenge norms and bring new thinking to helping solving important social problems,” said Ruth Zive, Ada’s head of marketing.

The digital banking company Quontic is addressing homelessness in the Dominican Republic.

The company is sending a group of 35 employees to the island for four days to build two homes for two homeless families. Quontic CIO Patrick Sells said service project fits with the company’s corporate mission to provide mortgages to low-income families and immigrants.

“This trip will also serve as a time to do team building and corporate strategy work but most importantly remind all of us the critical work we do everyday in our offices to help families like those we served on the trip,” he said.

Volunteers from SE2 help with website maintenance for United Way of Greater Topeka Christmas Bureau, a nonprofit that connects donor families with people in need during the holiday season.

Back in 2011, SE2 built a responsive web application to tackle the administrative processes that the community adoptions required.

Today, the United Way leverages the web-based system to scan and index paper applications, capture adopter/adoptee data, match families and share information between all the involved parties.

SE2 employees make improvements to the system each year and donate volunteer time as well.

“This has been a great opportunity for us to support United Way Christmas Bureau over the last several years using our skills to simplify and automate the family adoption process,” said Ambrish Patel, an enterprise architect at SE2.

Supporting employee causes

Many companies match donations of time and money made by employees through the Pledge 1% initiative. Led by Salesforce, this initiative builds corporate philanthropy by asking companies to make annual donations of 1% of product, equity, profit, or time to charitable organizations.

The cloud communications platform Twilio is a Pledge 1% company. To date, 232 Twilio employees have donated to or volunteered for the Pledge 1% program, which has resulted in $56,333.00 in donations to 145 charities.

“Through our Pledge 1% initiative, we match employees’ donations and volunteer time to nonprofits of their choice, and we add in an additional boost between November 18 to December 18,” said Erin Reilly, the company’s chief social impact officer.

Advertising tech company Media Math is also a member of the Pledge 1% movement. The company’s philanthropic division focuses on the 13% of people living on less than $2 per day through a Campaigns Count project.

“For every 20 campaigns in our platform, MediaMath.org funds an eyesight-saving surgery for individuals who suffer from low vision or whose blindness is treatable,” said Michael Quinn, founder and director of the company’s philanthropic arm.

In September, the company reached a milestone: funding surgeries for 5,000 people in some of the poorest regions of the world.

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