“We want the clients who ‘shop’ with us to only have the best,” said the young woman showing us the ropes in a sorting room at St. Anthony's. “What makes it to the second round should be in pristine condition.”
On a recent Friday afternoon we laid down our laptops to sort clothes donated to St. Anthony's in the Tenderloin for a few hours. It was humbling to know that what we were doing (no matter how small) had such a tangible impact. Every “pristine” jacket, sweater and scarf that was allowed through to the second round would hopefully soon be warming someone who would otherwise be cold.
Working in the heart of tech in San Francisco, it is impossible not to pay attention to “the good, the bad and the ugly” startup debate which is a constant topic of blogs, tweets, articles and bar rants. And while there is a lot of bad and ugly, there is a lot of good too. People such as Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin and Larry Page are sharing their immense wealth. And while not all startups can share on such a large scale, many are contributing nonetheless.
We, at Gliffy have the privilege of giving back 5% of our profits every quarter and have recently joined the Pledge 1% movement on top of what we do on our own. One of our company values is: “have heart, be a good human” and being able to give back is hugely important to everyone on our team.
In the spirit of the season, we wanted to tip our hat to some of our neighbors for the good work that they do:
Giving Circles Fund
Effectively a middleman, the Giving Circles Fund was developed to address the common conception that one donation alone cannot make a difference. This social startup facilitates communal giving circles, essentially networks that allow people to pool funds and make mutual decisions about where the money goes. They also provide advice to get you started if you want to make sure your money is being used in the best way possible, which can be a barrier for many people.
On the other end of the spectrum, companies like Sama Group directly fund those in need. Sama Group is a trifecta of startups that use technology and private sector methods to aid the poor around the world. Samahope, the medical component, bridges the gap between small-scale medical providers and poor people in need of surgery around the world, giving support to high-impact medical providers who lack resources. Samaschool, meanwhile, prepares people for success in the digital world, while Samasource gives them access to dignified work via the internet.
Arguably one of the most charitable for-profit startups in San Francisco, Salesforce gives employees six extra days off per year for volunteering. Upon completion of those days, the company donates $1,000 to a nonprofit organization. They will also match nonprofit donations up to $5,000 per year. And that's just the tip of the iceberg; Salesforce also organizes volunteer trips around the world and works directly with nonprofits to help them strengthen their companies from within among other ventures such as the Pledge 1%.
Have you ever played FarmVille? If so, then you may have unknowingly contributed to charity. Zynga, the company behind this game and others, has developed charity campaigns in which the profit from the games, (ie. money paid for virtual corn), benefits real world efforts, such as earthquake relief in Haiti. The company is also part of many volunteer projects in the Bay Area, including Tipping Point, a partnership that strives to fight poverty on a local level.
In 2014, Atlassian joined forces with Rally and Salesforce to create the Pledge 1% movement, which promises to contribute 1% of annual profits, 1% of employee time and 1% of company equity. This movement is especially powerful because it has the potential to grow exponentially as more businesses join forces. Less than a year after its inception, there are more than 500 companies who have taken the pledge.
While great inequalities are all around us, it feels that we live in a hopeful time. Incredibly rich people who were once like the rest of us are not only using their money for power and self-interest, they are using it for human potential, dignity and growth. Perhaps this will become the new normal?
And while the impact of the big guys may be most easily noticed, it really doesn’t matter how big our charitable gestures are. What matters is that we continue to make them because being selfless is what makes us feel human, connected and real. And that’s the biggest gift we can give ourselves.