When Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff asks tech CEOs to donate to his new anti-poverty effort, SF Gives, two-thirds say yes. One-third? Not so much.
This is one of his many efforts to give back to the city. It’s one reason why Google, and not Salesforce.com, has become the symbol of the tech unrest in San Francisco.
After all, Salesforce.com is by far the biggest tech employer in that city with about 4,000 employees in the area. And it is leasing not one, but two new towers currently under construction in San Francisco to many more, at least another 1,000 this year alone, the company tells us.
One of those buildings will be the tallest west of Chicago, and will even be known as the Salesforce Tower.
A lot of that has to do with the marketing genius, and genuine generosity, of Benioff, a third-generation San Franciscan.
Benioff is famous for his 1-1-1 model of philanthropy in which 1% of a company’s equity, 1% of its employees’ time, and 1% of its products are donated to charitable causes. Countless other tech startups nationwide have since done the same. It means that most of those 4,000 employees work directly with San Francisco-area non-profit organisations.
Benioff is also personally generous to his city. He and his wife Lynne have donated $US200 million to date to build a local hospital, UCSF. He also famously told the mayor of San Francisco to “think bigger” when asking him for money for schools. That led to a $US2.7 million donation for middle schools, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
And he pays the city back in little ways. For instance, Salesforce.com doesn’t give its employees free meals. They can support nearby restaurants if they want a gourmet lunch.
And now, in conjunction with his expansion plans, Benioff has launched a new initiative called SF Gives to quickly raise $US10 million from local tech companies for anti-poverty programs. Benioff is personally calling CEOs and asking them to kick in $US500,000, browbeating them if necessary.
When he launched the program in March, he said: “We don’t want to be the industry that looks like ‘The Wolf of Wall Street.'”
In a progress report interview with San Francisco Magazine’s Jon Steinberg, Benioff says he’s well on his way to the $US10 million goal but the tech industry hasn’t been as generous as it could be:
New industries and movements come out of S.F. on a regular basis … the Gold Rush, the Summer of Love, gay rights — but it’s also where Bank of America was headquartered, Wells Fargo, Levi Strauss. …
But tied into that has always been generosity: the Haas family, the Hellmans, the Fishers, the Shorensteins. During every one of these boom times, the people who benefited the most were also giving back the most. But this time around, we haven’t been able to talk about a broad philanthropic effort to couple with the growth.
Getting money for SF Gives hasn’t exactly been like pulling teeth. SF Gives has landed 14 corporate backers including big companies like Google, Levi’s, LinkedIn, Zynga, Box, Jawbone, PopSugar, Dropbox, and, naturally, Salesforce.
And he still hears “yes” more than he hears “no”. But, he definitely hears no, and about one-third of the time, Benioff told Steinberg:
“We make three calls, we’re getting two yeses and one no. …
There’s a very famous CEO — I won’t give you his name — who told me, ‘Our office is not in S.F., our factory is not in S.F., and we’re not going to do this. I said, ‘Don’t you think you should give back anyway?’ And he said, ‘What have we been given?'”
Interestingly, some of these CEOs may not be pushing back on the idea of giving, but of giving to an effort led by the flamboyant Benioff. Some Valley insiders roll their eyes when he talks about charity.
Two years ago, when asking a billionaire startup CEO why his company didn’t support the 1-1-1 model, he told us that he didn’t agree with it. “I have my own foundation,” he said. He thinks charitable giving should be a personal choice made by employees, not a corporate mandate. “It’s up to them,” he told us.
Ironically, Google, the symbol for the city’s gentrification problem, isn’t in that camp.
Google promptly contributed $US1 million to SF Gives. Plus, through its own huge foundation, it has given nearly $US60 million to Bay Area nonprofits in the past three years, it says. Every year it gives $US100 million away in grants, along with 60,000 hours of volunteer time and $US1 billion in products. Beyond the Valley, Google is also tackling some pretty heavy issues worldwide, too, like sex trafficking and child abuse.