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Why Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff believes philanthropy can be contagious

Salesforce (CRM) CEO Marc Benioff is bullish on philanthropy. His company’s foundation co-founded the Pledge 1% in December 2014. The NGO encourages companies to pledge 1% of employee time, equity, product or profit to improve communities around the world.

Benioff is well-known as a philanthropist with his personal wealth as well: he and his wife have signed the Giving Pledge, an effort started by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett to get the extremely wealthy to give away more than half of their wealth during their lifetime or in their wills.

During Benioff’s keynote address at the 2016 Intel Capital Global Summit in San Diego this week, he was asked about how he’s able to attract millennials, especially given the competition from sexy-sounding startups. The millennial generation, though often stereotyped as entitled and selfie-obsessed, is actually quite generous — 85% gave charitably in 2014 and 70% volunteered their time in 2014, according to the National Philanthropic Trust.

Benioff said young professionals find Salesforce an appealing place to work precisely because philanthropy is baked into the company’s culture. He said that he’s not only driven to provide efficient, consumer-focused technology but he’s also “trying to have a big impact on the world and the way that other companies are doing business.”

In fact, over 1,000 companies including Yelp (YELP), Twilio (TWLO), Docusign, Harry’s, and Yahoo Finance parent company Yahoo (YHOO), have decided to join the pledge.

The chief executive of Pledge 1%, Amy Lesnick, describes this initiative as “early-stage philanthropy” — that companies of any size and across all industries can use their platform to make the world a better place.

“Millennials want to come in and know that your company is just not about selling product and making product and creating product. They want to know that your company is going to do something for others,” Benioff said.

He said Salesforce’s emphasis on giving back to the community doesn’t impede its ability to prosper.

“That’s our message at Salesforce: yes, we’re going to be successful, yes we’re going to innovate, create, and we’re going to have great customer relationships,” he said. “But let’s just make sure that we keep in our minds that we’re going to do something for other people as well.”

Melody Hahm is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.

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