The Power of Giving Back: Nothing “Yeah, But” About It
I just returned from Aspen where I participated in Fortune Brainstorm: Tech, an annual gathering of tech leaders, media visionaries, entrepreneurs, and a variety of other big brained folks to talk about trends and changes in technology, culture and society as a whole.
The event, and particularly the public discussion I participated in about how technology can supercharge a new generation of nonprofits, left me newly inspired. It also further convinced me of the role giving back has in empowering businesses. As our nation grapples with how to maintain its leadership position in the global economy, we should view imbuing a spirit of philanthropy into our companies as one of the vital ways we can foster a culture of creativity, involvement, and commitment to doing good that will make not only individual companies, but our country as a whole stronger. (Companies that give back also gain the added benefit of attracting and retaining the right people.)
Among my sources of inspiration at Fortune Brainstorm: Tech, was my fellow panelist John Wood. At 35, John quit his executive post at Microsoft to found Room to Read, a nonprofit that builds libraries and schools in the poorest parts of the world. No doubt, John and I have approached giving back very differently. While my way—from a laptop and smart phone in Santa Clara—isn’t nearly as exotic as traveling throughout the developing world getting books into the hands of kids, we are both spurred by the same fundamental belief: As companies and individuals, we can all do more. Perhaps more surprisingly, we have experienced the same result: by giving more, we receive more.
I have been fortunate to work with individuals I view as “leaders in giving”: At eBay, I saw the power of launching a corporate foundation with pre-IPO stock as well as the significant impact that Pierre and Pam Omidyar and Jeff Skoll made through their enormous commitment to personal giving. Marc Benioff took what eBay did to a new level when he employed a 1-1-1 integrated philanthropic model. These leaders have influenced my personal philanthropy through the Webb Family Foundation, which is dedicated to my belief in promoting meritocracy through helping underdogs in society meet their full potential.
When I joined LiveOps as its CEO, it was on the condition that as a company we would give back. LiveOps already had a “heart,” but I wanted to ensure its’ reach radiated throughout the company. To begin, we launched the LiveOps Foundation, which borrows from thesalesforce.com 1-1-1 integrated model that gives 1% of profits and 1% of employees’ time in addition to the 1% of pre-IPO equity that it set aside for its Foundation. Like my friend Marc, I believe having so much skin in the game makes the foundation core to the company and the lives of employees, as opposed to just the appendage it is at so many other companies. Giving money is often the easiest thing, but it’s presence that matters most.
In an effort to instill our company culture of giving back, we welcome new employees on their first day with grant funds they can allocate to any cause they wish to support. This “Day One” Campaign underscores our belief that being a caring and giving company is not something you do once a year, but everyday. Employees love it and they do amazing things with it.
Just imagine how powerful and proud we could be if every American business embraced a philanthropic culture. Yet, too many people view giving back as a “yeah…but” thing: “Yeah we want to give back, but we don’t have the time;” “Yeah, it’s the right thing to do, but it takes away from the focus of the company.” This is very shortsighted. We do have the time to do good AND it will prompt us to do well.
As a company, LiveOps is focused on empowering individuals. We give them a new way to work that puts them in control and allows them to reach their destiny. And, each day LiveOps employees remind me that they want to work and they want to have a meaningful life—and thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever. We want people to be happy here and we see the many great contributions they make, starting on Day One. What’s most astonishing is this ripple effect of giving that we can so easily create. Together we can pass on the giving back gene, and as a population empowered to give, we can make a positive difference in the world and we can help reinforce our companies’ and country’s strength and pride.