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Hillary Clinton Encourages Tech Companies to Give Back

Hillary Clinton
Image: Alan Freed Shutterstock.com

While speaking at Dreamforce 2014, a tech convention for cloud-based data management company SalesForce, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton focused on the ways tech companies can—and should—give back to their communities.

“What we have to be really focused on now is making sure that the benefits of technology to people’s lives outweigh the pitfalls,” said Clinton, adding that it was important that companies such as SalesForce are “creating more jobs, connecting up more families and communities, and expanding our horizons.”

SalesForce in particular has focused on charitable causes with their 1/1/1 model, which commits SalesForce to donating 1% of its time, products, and financial resources to humanitarian organizations. That’s meant $68 million in grants and 680,000 volunteer hours from staff for more than 23,000 nonprofits and schools around the world in the last 15 years.

These comments come at a time when companies at large, and particularly tech-oriented businesses, are cutting back on philanthropic giving. In 1986, corporations were giving 2.1% of profits to charity; by 2012, that percentage had dropped to 0.8%.

And though tech companies are generally doing well financially, many have still seen fit to take from their communities instead of giving back: Twitter negotiated $56 million in tax breaks from San Francisco to support its expansion, and Oracle convinced the city to use public funds to host America’s Cup race, which cost $11.5 million after dismal fundraising attempts fell short.

On the other hand, Google remains one of the most philanthropic US companies, donating $1.1 billion to charity in 2012—8.5% of its profits. However, most of these charitable donations go to international charities, begging the question of whether or not tech companies should be focusing more locally, or if all philanthropy is equally necessary.

In the wake of these events, Clinton’s Dreamforce speech encouraged industry leaders to fulfill what she described as their duty to use tech for social good, potentially kickstarting a new wave of philanthropic giving.

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Donating During the Holidays

holiday donations
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We’re once more in the middle of the holiday season, which brings joy to many of us, sorrow to some of us, and an excess of “stuff” to lots of Americans, who are expected to spend about $750 per person in the coming month. Altogether, holiday spending will be over $550 billion this year—and that’s a lot of money.

But let’s stop for a moment and think about what the holiday season looks like for all Americans. True, most of us will spend time with friends and family starting around Thanksgiving and continuing into the New Year. We’ll give gifts, enjoy food that’s more extravagant than normal, and generally have a good time. But there are about 3.5 million Americans who, instead, will spend their holiday season homeless and wondering when their next meal might be. 12 million are still without jobs.

Next to that, spending $750 each starts to sound a little bit ludicrous, doesn’t it? Yes, some of those gifts will carry real meaning and sentimental value, but some of it will also end up in a closet somewhere within a few weeks, completely forgotten. Bruce DeBoskey of the Denver Post has an excellent article that talks about what would happen if each of us used just 10% of our holiday spending money on charity instead—and the result is phenomenal.

All totaled up, it would equal over $55 billion of funding for nonprofit organizations and charities. That’s the kind of money that has a lot of potential to change peoples’ lives. DeBoskey suggests the following for this year’s season:

  1. Have a family meeting to discuss giving 10% this year and decide where the money will go
  2. Give charitable gift cards that allow the recipient to designate which charity they’d like to give to.
  3. Buy gifts that directly support charities
  4. Volunteer your time to connect, engage, and learn