Good news and good works are going on in the IT channel and the tech industry, most often behind the scenes. Not for Profit is a new ChannelPro column highlighting volunteerism, charitable and philanthropic endeavors, outreach in the areas of diversity and inclusion, and other ways the channel is paying it forward.
A cloud platform that can help change the world—or at a minimum, help improve your local community—by enabling people to get informed, get involved, and get behind a cause financially? You have my attention.
Philanthropy Cloud, a collaboration of Salesforce.org and United Way Worldwide, aims to connect every aspect of charitable giving through a network of individuals, corporations, and nonprofits to drive social good. It’s a vision both organizations have been pondering for several years, and about a year ago they cemented their partnership to create a marketplace that can engage individuals at scale. Salesforce.org will be providing the technology and United Way will curate the content, including information on local and national nonprofits, NGOs, policy, and the United Nations 17 sustainable development goals to change the world.
Salesforce.org, a social enterprise of Salesforce.com, has a not-so-modest mission: improving the state of the world. Rob Acker (pictured, left), CEO of Salesforce.org, tells me the organization does three primary things: “We make technology affordable for those that do good. As a social enterprise, we take a portion of what we make and invest in grants to the community; we put $47 million back into the community this current fiscal year. And three, we empower an army of citizen philanthropists—Salesforce employees giving back.”
United Way is a leader in workplace philanthropy, serving more than 115,000 workplace campaigns that reach more than 47.5 million employees. Brian Gallagher (pictured, below), president and CEO of United Way Worldwide, says the drivers of this digital project included connecting with younger people in more direct ways and solving problems differently. In the past, he says, we worked to solve problems by giving our time or money to institutions. Efforts like Philanthropy Cloud bring people into the process and engage them on a personal level.
He points to the “Cajun Navy,” an ad hoc group of volunteers who took their boats to Texas to help people in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, as an example of how more communities will work in the future. “There was great institutional response, but the issue was so immense people were using technology, connecting with each other to solve problems in real time,” Gallagher says.
Acker agrees that the next wave in social causes is the individual. “How do you take all these corporations with empowered individuals who want to give back, and connect them with causes they care about most, or [enable them to] go deeper into policy issues?” he asks.
He points to a confluence of trends that makes the timing right for Philanthropy Cloud. “There are unprecedented rates of engagement,” Acker says. “Millennials’ number one attribute to look for in a job is the ability to give back and have a sense of purpose in their work, so how do we capitalize on that? Second, we can go from a hashtag to a movement overnight. Third, leading organizations are starting to work together on issues, whether that’s the environment, education, nonprofits. We’re now starting to see businesses wanting to support the United Nation’ sustainable development goals.”
Moreover, Acker says that while individuals today are hyperinformed from their newsfeeds, they have an underlying sense of anxiety about the need to take action and get involved. By using the power of technology, there’s an opportunity for businesses to both empower and attract employees through a platform that allows them to connect with the causes they care about. Acker believes Philanthropy Cloud is the ultimate CRM use case.
With Salesforce Einstein AI technology, Philanthropy Cloud will intelligently sift through millions of opportunities to create personalized giving recommendations. For example, Einstein can surface the most relevant nonprofits, impact funds, fundraising campaigns, and related stories based on an employee's interests, location, giving history, and other signals. Organizations will also be able to track their progress toward achieving the UN sustainable development goals, for example, as well as corporate and employee giving as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
The platform is expected to be generally available this summer. Salesforce.org and United Way are still determining pricing, but aim to make the product accessible and affordable for all. At launch, Philanthropy Cloud will be sold to corporations to engage their employees in causes they care about. The goal is for personal profiles to move with each user, and the two organizations are exploring what features will be necessary for that. Eventually, the plan is to make the platform available at a price point attractive for SMBs that don’t have CSR programs, but that do have employees with the same aspirations as those working for larger companies.
Philanthropy Cloud will initially support North American employee giving to any eligible nonprofit in the U.S. or Canada. United Way will be the exclusive reseller for the first two years and will be providing Tier 1 support. Both organizations will continue to explore integrated support experiences in the future.
Gallagher says United Way corporate partners have been enthusiastic about the vision, whether they want to utilize the platform to its fullest aspirations or just to run their United Way fundraising campaigns.
Ackers says the platform is designed to be easy to implement and configure. “My hope is we get this in the hands of every corporation,” he says. “I’m 100 percent convinced this will change the world.”
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