Corporate Philanthropy: Earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters

Salesforce.com

Salesforce.com

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco for the Dreamforce conference from Salesforce.com. It was an amazing conference on many levels. There were over 100,000 attendees, thousands of technical and business sessions, even a free concert from GreenDay and Blondie.

What really impressed me, however, was the 1/1/1 philanthropy model of the Salesforce.com Foundation:

  • 1% of employee time is donated to charitable efforts
  • 1% of the company’s equity is donated to charitable efforts
  • 1% of product resources is donated to charitable efforts

This approach allows the company to provide important relief in a major way, such as the effort to help Haiti following the devastating earthquake suffered by that country in 2010.

The above video was presented during the keynote session for the conference. Trust me, I’ve been to lots of these technical conferences before. The opening session or keynote usually goes something like this: “Thanks for buying our stuff. Here’s a bunch of new things we’re going to come out with. Please buy more of our stuff.”

This is why I was somewhat shocked to watch Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce.com, spend nearly 40 minutes of the two hour session talking about philanthropy. Not just touting what his own company has done, but also encouraging the attending companies and individuals to do more.

In fact, at one point he had all the non-profit organizations in the audience stand up and challenged the rest of the attendees: “These people are doing God’s work. It’s everyone who is sitting down who can help them. You have the time, the talent, the treasure, the people, the resources, the finances…we can all do more to help. Don’t forget who you really are. We know you have the opportunity to give.”

This message particularly struck home for me when, after viewing the video on Haiti, Mr. Benioff talked with Petra Nemcova, founder of the Happy Hearts Fund, an organization she pledged to create while clinging to a tree hoping to survive the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in Thailand.

As I’ve posted before, I’ve spent considerable time researching the human impact of the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. So I was touched when Petra spoke of her own experience that terrible day in Thailand, nearly coming to tears as she recalled it: “The hardest part wasn’t the broken pelvis or nearly drowning. It wasn’t the physical pain. It was to hear children screaming for help. And then, after a half an hour, not hearing them anymore.”

Sometimes it takes the direct experience of such tragedy to help us realize a hidden purpose in our lives.

Salesforce.com’s and Happy Heart Fund’s efforts in Haiti got me thinking about other charitable companies, especially related to earthquakes and tsunamis. For example, I recently discovered a great new restaurant here in Atlanta, Taqueria Tsunami. They advertise themselves as a Latin-Asian kitchen, hence the play on words in their name and slogan (“A tidalwave of flavors…”). The tacos are really great. Right up my alley combining those flavor profiles.

It’d be easy for a restaurant like that to open, be clever with their name, and stop there. Instead, Taqueria Tsunami has selected certain menu items where a portion of the proceeds go to support tsunami relief efforts. This is obviously done on a much smaller scale than the efforts of a huge company like Salesforce.com but is impressive nonetheless.

I applaud these companies and the great philanthropical work they’re doing. I wonder if there are more out there I should know about. If you’re aware of any, please start building a list in the comments. I’d love to be able to promote support of such organizations.

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