Back in September I spent a weekend with two dozen leaders at Stanford University for a conversation on “Leveraging Technology for Social Impact.” Throughout the discussions, we recognized that technology has created new problems for society—like decreased attention spans and negative impacts on mental and physical health—but overall we were optimistic that technology could also be beneficial to the global community.
It was an intense weekend spent dissecting meaty issues with a roomful of smart people. We agreed that the world is moving faster than ever with changes to technology and society happening at a dizzying pace. My favorite sessions discussed the potential for purpose-driven companies to help communities—both local and global. When capital and businesses are united behind the right vision, they can have a lasting and positive impact across the world.
Thinking beyond profits
We discussed how untenable it is for us to narrowly define an enterprise’s success based solely on profits, especially in a world of increased inequality, climate change, and social upheaval. Companies must consider that the actions they take affect not only their customers but the community and the world at large.
The Business Roundtable’s recent commitment was raised as a great example of thinking beyond shareholders to invest in employees, protect the environment, and deal fairly with suppliers. The group recognized that there needs to be a commitment to all stakeholders, not just to the people who own shares in the company, that needs to be upheld.
Giving back to the community
We also talked about how corporations are evolving how they give back to their communities. In addition to financial donations, there has been a push for companies to donate their employees’ unique skill set and knowledge by volunteering their staff’s time and expertise. This can have a healthy impact on the business itself because employees feel fulfilled working for a good cause, helping engage and retain good workers and driving higher output and efficiencies within the company.
Studies have shown that simply throwing money at a community doesn’t do as much good as a financial donation in combination with donating time, experience, and skills. There’s a stronger emotional connection and commitment when donors give their own precious time to the cause.
How and why we give back
At SocioFabrica, we have a year-round commitment to giving back, so we’re pretty passionate about this topic. We partner with our clients to support Boys & Girls Clubs of America and First Book, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing new books to children in need.
I personally do a lot of work through She Leads, and I’m helping to launch the first Bay Area chapter of She Runs It, a 107-year-old nonprofit with a mission to pave the way for more women to lead at each stage of their careers in marketing, media, and technology. (Psst, our first event is in January, a Morning with the Best of the Badass Bosses.)
Almost everyone on our team finds a way to give back to their community in areas they feel strongly about. For example, some of our team members volunteer their design and marketing skills to Get Her Elected, a nonprofit that helps women who are running for public office.
Our design director has volunteered at the Princess Project—a non profit to help young women who can’t afford a prom dress. “All of the dresses have all been donated to the organization and there are events where volunteers help organize inventory, style, and help girls choose the perfect dress. It’s a very uplifting experience.”
One team member volunteered with Build, mentoring at-risk students to become entrepreneurs and write up business plans. “It was fun to see what types of businesses middle school students would come up with and how they would pitch them to investors at the end of the semester.”
Our account director volunteers as an art teacher in a local school that wouldn’t otherwise have art classes. “The PTA pays for the Art in Action subscription and parents volunteer as docents, assistants, and curators. The kids really enjoy the art class. It’s amazing to see kids express themselves through the projects. Art is so important to me and was my favorite class in elementary school. I can’t imagine school without it.”
Our CTO volunteers with his son’s Little League and is entering his sixth year of involvement with the organization. “There are many experiences in baseball that help prepare kids for life—not getting a hit every time you’re up to bat, enjoying come-from-behind wins, understanding how to lose, working with a team, developing a work ethic, and practicing your listening skills. The best thing is when—right after the team meeting following a bad loss—both teams of kids are running around in the grass, just being kids and having fun. The win or loss really only lasts a minute then they get back to life.”
Are we teaching the kids or are the kids really teaching us? It goes both ways.
Being good, eco-friendly citizens
Our email marketing director has planted trees for Friends of the Urban Forest and helped organize dance parties for developmentally disabled adults at The Arc. Our design director has also done park cleanups in Oakland at Cleveland Cascade, with lots of raking, sweeping, and pruning. My co-founder, Keyvan, cleaned beaches with Surfrider and taught kids windsurfing through Beyond Boardshorts. You name it, if it’s a pet passion of one of our team members, we’ve donated time, money, and energy to helping promote the cause.
So as Giving Tuesday approaches and requests for donations flood your inbox from your favorite nonprofits, please consider donating your time in addition to clicking the donate button to help support them. We believe the world is a better place when everyone is working to enact change and helping the organizations that communities need to thrive.