Giving Back in Silicon Valley

I was inspired to write this blog post about the charitable acts of some of the companies we will be visiting in Silicon Valley for two main reasons. First, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I interned at a startup last summer that focused on nonprofit marketing. There, I saw the effect that charitable giving has on our society. More recently, however, I received an email from DoorDash Founder and CEO, Tony Xu, that motivated me to explore how other West Coast tech companies are doing their part to give back to the communities they serve.

In his email to customers, Xu announced the launch of the “Delivering Good” movement. As part of this initiative, DoorDash pledged to donate one meal to Feeding America for every meal purchased through their platform. Feeding America is the nation’s largest organization dedicated to fighting hunger. Additionally, the company addressed the problem of food waste by introducing Project DASH, a new effort focused on tackling this massive U.S problem by working with partner restaurants. As a customer reading this email, I was happy to see DoorDash is focused on more than just generating revenue.

After conducting some research, I found four key cases of “Giving Back” that will give you all a good sense as to how Silicon Valley tech companies take on philanthropy. The examples include #GivingTuesday on Facebook, Google’s donations to STEM education, Twitch’s Cheers for Kids Program, and LinkedIn For Good.

#GivingTuesday on Facebook

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As some of you may know, over the last few years, the Tuesday after Cyber Monday has been dubbed “Giving Tuesday” by the nonprofit world. It provides a great contrast to the spending on material goods and falls right when people are considering their tax write-offs. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, over $274 million was raised in 2017. To help reach that exorbitant number, Facebook teamed up with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to match $2 million in donations made through Facebook. Additionally, Facebook waved fees on all donations made to nonprofits on #GivingTuesday. With such influence in making this day a success, it was great to see Facebook helped as much as they could.

Google’s donations to STEM education

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In recent years, Google has made it a priority to invest in America’s future. By providing money and resources, Google hopes that students are motivated to pursue a career in the STEM fields. In October 2017, Google made a pledge to donate 1 billion dollars to help people land technical jobs. Furthermore, the company created “Grow with Google”, a program designed to give people in the United States access to free technical job training.

Following this same theme, a partnership with Chance the Rapper (seen above) recently went viral. The duo donated over $1.5 million to the Chicago Public Schools System. The money was used to buy computers as well as develop computer science and arts curricula. I think the best part of this charitable act was its lasting impact. The computers can be used for many years to come and the lesson plans will hopefully inspire a large group of students to take an interest in STEM.

Twitch’s Cheers for Kids Program

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This past September, Twitch formed a partnership with Extra Life and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals to acknowledge Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The Cheers for Kids program asked users to use #charity when posting on players’ streams. When used 1000 times, Twitch agreed to donate $2 to these charities, with a maximum donation $200,000. Although this amount of money may seem low compared to other examples, I admire the company’s strategy. Instead of making a lump sum donation and writing a press release, Twitch encouraged users to be a part of the giving and fostered a better sense of community in the process.

LinkedIn For Good

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As a powerful job search tool, LinkedIn created a separate department of their business dedicated to giving back. LinkedIn For Good provides resources for refugees and veterans looking to enter the workforce. Blogs such as “How Veterans Can Make the Most of LinkedIn” and custom-tailored tutorials can make a major impact in people’s lives.

For nonprofit organizations, LinkedIn has created content on topics ranging from social fundraising to finding skilled volunteers and board members. As the Operations Manager of The Heights, a nonprofit on BC’s campus, I appreciate the assets LinkedIn provides. While LinkedIn For Good doesn’t involve monetary support, I believe it provides something greater: the opportunity for people to learn and achieve success in their endeavors.

My Thoughts

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a principle we all learned very early in our CSOM careers. The topic came up time and time again in my Portico class, which allowed me to think deeply about the issue. That said, some of the practices common in the business world concern me. For example, it is bothersome when companies overuse their charitable efforts as marketing material. I think it is important to advertise good deeds and create awareness for a cause. Nevertheless, as with anything in life, it shouldn’t be overdone.

From looking at the examples I have highlighted, we can see how CSR should be achieved. The leaders of these companies understand that their expertise and funds should be combined to help make the world a better place. They also know that charity doesn’t solely consist of writing a meaningless check and moving onto the next task. By making relevant donations and creating innovative programs that engage customers and people around the world, all parties can benefit from giving back!

Take this poll to vote on your favorite example of giving back!

Know of any other cool, interesting, or feel-good programs sponsored by any of the companies we are visiting? Share below in the comments!

Sources: Google Donations, Google + Chance the Rapper, LinkedIn For Good, Twitch’s Cheer for Kids, #GivingTuesday on Facebook, DoorDash’s Project DASH

9 thoughts on “Giving Back in Silicon Valley

  1. We learn so much about these companies and their business models, profit margins, etc. that it it so interesting to read about this aspect. This past summer, I also interned at a company that helped NPOs (they developed a software that manages nonprofit donor portfolios to optimize donor retention and donation amount) so it is really cool reading about how larger companies are making an impact. I am not very familiar with other charitable efforts by companies we are visiting, except being from Southern California, I know Apple donated $1M to relief efforts in the recent wildfires.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the analysis Kipp! This topic is really interesting and something that our discussed companies should probably get more credit for. Various shows and media often satirize Silicon Valley for constantly trying to “make the world a better place,” and it’s nice to see these organizations actually achieving that.

    Along the lines of your Portico references, I’m curious to hear what you think about CSR in the context of shareholders. Do you think that companies have a fiduciary responsibility to spend investor money on more profitability? Or should they be free to use the money for initiatives like the ones above? I think those types of questions can play a pivotal role in how managers approach their businesses.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoyed reading this blog post, Kipp! As a student in CSOM who took PULSE and Portico my freshman year, I have struggled with the concept of balancing service and philanthropy with respect to my future career. CSOM receives a reputation at BC where students only care about their salaries and wealth, and it can be hard to envision a balance as a 19 year old student coming out of college and having bills to pay. It is hopeful, however, to see large companies being conscious of their power, resources and revenue to give back to those in need. I remember when I visited Google last Fall, one employee who was a BC Alum spoke about continuing to serve the community into her adult life, and participating in Google’s days of service. I would definitely love to continue this conversation in class!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I absolutely love this topic, Kipp. I think my eventual dream job would be to work on philanthropy projects at a tech company, so this analysis was right up my alley. I’m also interested in the shareholder discussion that Michael mentioned – I personally feel that these charitable acts affect profitability by enhancing company culture and reputation, but I’m sure there are many opinions.

    I often hear that working for some of the corporate giants, and even non-profits, can be a bit disillusioning as you learn to truly focus on just business success. It’s great to see that philanthropy still plays a part beyond marketing advantages, and I’d be interested in hearing more about your experience with this through your internship experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great topic to cover – even better (and more unique) than the one I suggested. I received that DoorDash email as well, and was also curious about the CSR culture in Silicon Valley. I’m glad you took the extra step in digging deeper!

    P.S. The Google Form poll is an awesome bonus!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I loved reading about philanthropic companies here, I wrote a blog post on a very similar topic with a slightly different twist. It’s such an integral part of the SV experience. At my internship over the summer, one of my bosses was a cancer survivor. He went to work for Salesforce in their healthcare vertical specifically because their mission was so aligned with his personal experiences and he wanted to share the SFDC platform with people who he felt could really benefit from it. Getting a chance to see other companies in the same vein really warms the heart. Thanks for the share!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hey Kipp, really enjoyed the post. It really shows how serious these companies take CSR both as way of giving back and as a way of promoting their company. While in an ideal world this is the way every company would bring attention to themselves (regardless of their positioning in the economy), I think it’s important to point out that each of these companies’ business benefited from these outreach program. This is because all these companies are demand-side platforms. In other words, they benefit from the more people who use their site. So while these companies were all supporting great causes, they were also actively expanding their platforms and garnering more users; in some cases, users they might not otherwise fully reach (like veterans for LinkedIn).

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This was a very heartwarming post. It’s great that these companies chose causes that are in line with their core competencies, which benefits their business and helps them make even more of an impact. Facebook has really been pushing themselves as a platform to facilitate donations lately—have you noticed friends accepting donations to a favorite charity in lieu of birthday gifts? Google’s donations to STEM education also really speak to me because it’s so important to get children excited about STEM from a young age. There’s a program called Girls Who Code which holds summer coding camps for girls, and many of the companies we’ll be visiting host the camps in their offices. Simply providing this office space makes such a difference for those girls!


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