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Salesforce.org CEO: Silicon Valley 'can always be giving more’

JP Mangalindan
Chief Tech Correspondent

For all its financial might, Silicon Valley should give back to the community more than it currently does, contends Salesforce.org CEO Rob Acker.

“I think that we can always be doing more, everybody, and I think there are a lot of things that people can do,” Acker told Yahoo Finance anchor Julie Hyman at the World Economic Forum this week.

To that end, Salesforce.org, a 20-year-old nonprofit division of Salesforce.com (CRM) with more than 900 employees, has awarded over $240 million in grants to organizations and schools worldwide.

The division, which does not currently receive funding from Salesforce.com, raises grant money by selling Salesforce.com software at heavily discounted rates to nonprofit organizations and schools, including the American Red Cross, Change.org, charity: water, the Epilepsy Foundation and the Girls Scouts of the United States of America. In the case of charity: water, Salesforce.org provided Salesforce customer relationship management (CRM) software and an app called roundCause, which essentially helps charity: water manage its customer relationships with software tools, as well as raise funds.

Salesforce.org is one of the higher-profile examples of philanthropy in the San Francisco Bay Area — a region where the median home price in San Francisco hovers close to $1.4 million, according to Zillow, and the median family income for the area is $118,400. (The definition of “low income” for a household of four people living in San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties starts at $117,400, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of low income limits.)

Many of the tech industry’s billionaires, including Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Larry Page, signed the Giving Pledge, a commitment by the “world’s wealthiest individuals” to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes. Benioff and Salesforce also contributed $7 million in support of San Francisco’s Proposition C, a ballot measure passed last November that taxes large businesses to bring in $300 million to fight homelessness.

Still, the rest of Silicon Valley could donate more of their money and time to local causes. About 90% of philanthropic dollars from Silicon Valley, for instance, have gone to national and international causes, according to The Giving Code, a report published in 2016 about Silicon Valley philanthropy. Of the 10% donated to local organizations, much of it goes to large hospitals or universities, with less than 5% going to local community-based organizations.

“I think that companies have always cared, and they've wanted to give back,” adds Acker, who points out that Salesforce.com employees receive seven paid days a year for volunteer work. “What we're really trying to change is that I think historically, corporate giving was about writing the checks, because companies didn't know how to do anything but that, so they felt that was their value-added service. But our greatest areas of impact is either through technology or through our employee engagement. That's what really connects and bridges up the community. So I think, of course, we can always be doing more.”

Spoken like an ambitious philanthropist.

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