Salesforce Chief Philanthropy Officer Suzanne DiBianca Wants All Companies To Drive Social Change

Source: Forbes / Michael Zakaras

What role should businesses play in social change? In political advocacy? Is it okay for corporations to take a public stand, as Salesforce has and does, on issues like equal pay for women or LGBTQ rights? What do these actions signal about the future of CSR and corporate giving? To get some perspective on these questions, we turned to corporate philanthropy pioneer Suzanne DiBianca, who leads philanthropy and stakeholder management at Salesforce. Ashoka’s Michael Zakaras sat down with DiBianca recently at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco, California.

Michael Zakaras: Suzanne, you created with Marc Benioff the Salesforce Foundation in 2000. Can you give us a sense for where your values and entrepreneurial instincts come from?

Suzanne DiBianca: Well, I was raised by a capitalist and a social worker, and I often think that I ended up in the middle. My dad was a businessman, my mom ran the department of juvenile justice for the state of New Jersey. That meant, among other things, that kids from my mom’s work were often staying at our home. We were living in Princeton in the days of The Preppy Handbook, and these kids didn’t look like anyone in my school or neighborhood. It helped me see from an early age that there was a much bigger world out there and it wasn’t always very kind or fair. Looking back, these were important threads that shaped my direction and contribution.

Zakaras: You were part of a small group that created and began sharing the model of ‘integrated philanthropy’ years ago. What is it and why is it important?

DiBianca: Integrated philanthropy essentially means aligning your community support with your core business and competencies. For companies especially, it’s a recognition that often your technology, your products, and your time are just as valuable as the dollars you can give away. At Salesforce we created and spread the 1-1-1 model, which means we agreed to give away 1 percent of our equity, 1 percent of our time, and 1 percent of our product at minimum. For us, this has amounted to $120 million in grants, 1.4 million employee volunteer hours and technology for 28,000 nonprofits and education institutions.


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