By my unofficial survey, almost all prospect researchers and gift officers have heard of The Giving Pledge, the effort launched in 2010 by Warren Buffett, Melinda French Gates and Bill Gates to encourage the “world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to charitable causes.”
To date, there are 242 pledgers from 29 countries around the world. Most pledgers have penned a letter that explains why they decided to join The Giving Pledge. The letters also serve as a public commitment, and pledgers often talk about the types of causes that resonate with them.
If one of these pledgers is on your radar, assessing their broad capacity is simple – they are all capable of transformational giving. More importantly, you can frequently get a window into their philanthropic interests by reading their letters, navigating to their family foundation websites (many have one!), or through any of the other resources we typically use to research philanthropic giving patterns.
Less well known is Pledge 1%, which I will call the corporate philanthropy counterpart to The Giving Pledge. Founded in 2014 by Marc Benioff of Salesforce and Scott Farquhar of Atlassian, the 18,000 companies who have now signed Pledge 1% have agreed to contribute 1% of their equity, product, employee time and/or profits to the social good sector.
Rather than being singularly focused on one metric the way The Giving Pledge focuses on wealth, Pledge 1% champions flexibility, allowing each company to choose the approach that works best for them.
Some companies choose just one of the four categories, while others choose a combination. Still others deviate from the 1% threshold, sometimes committing more and sometimes committing less. Rather than holding firm on the parameters, Pledge 1% is “building a movement of corporate philanthropy” and aiming to instill philanthropy into corporate culture more substantially.
While any company can join, the movement specifically targets early-stage companies. The philosophy is that building philanthropy into a company’s DNA during its nascent stage will allow for a growing impact over time, especially with the understanding that each company’s goal is to scale up and become more successful. And, as Pledge 1% points out, it is easier to commit when there are fewer decision makers – like outside investors, board members, and large executive teams – involved.
Like The Giving Pledge, Pledge 1% is a worldwide effort. The companies that have committed to it span 100 countries and almost every industry that you can think of, from the tech industry to venture capital firms, to utilities, to apparel companies, to beauty product and food manufacturers and professional services companies – you get the idea.
While focused on corporate philanthropy, Pledge 1% is, in and of itself, a non-profit organization. To lean on the expertise of others, it has relied heavily on a partnership with the Tides Foundation, which provides them with strategic advice and philanthropic services, such as managing some of the donor advised funds and private foundations that companies may choose to fund.
To build regional momentum, Pledge 1% has partnered with preeminent non-profits and community foundations in major cities who can help “encourage and challenge” participation from companies headquartered in local communities. For instance, Pledge 1% Boston is spearheaded by the Boston Foundation and TUGG whereas its New York efforts are led by Robin Hood and Australian Philanthropic Services takes a lead role down under.
So, why should we care?
For starters, Pledge 1% claims that its signatories have already committed over $2 billion in philanthropic dollars. That’s a lot of impact. And, that’s only the dollars – it does not include the volunteer or pro bono hours being donated by employees of Pledge 1% companies or the free/discounted products that Pledge1% companies are offering to non-profits.
Consider Salesforce. Admittedly, they might be one of the largest companies to be part of Pledge 1%. Even so, their impact alone equates to $240 million donated, plus 3.5 million volunteer hours, plus free or discounted software to 39,000 non-profits. That’s a tremendous impact.
Further, Giving USA data shows that over the most recent 5-year period, corporate philanthropy is growing faster than any other source. In 2022, $30 million of corporate philanthropy was reported – a 23.3 percent jump since 2018.
Combined, all these factors indicate that corporate philanthropy is – and will continue to be – a bigger driver of philanthropy in the future.
How do I know if a company has signed the Pledge?
The simplest way is to search the list on the Pledge 1% website.
But, there’s more to it than just knowing which companies. As with The Giving Pledge, it is even more helpful to better understand the specific goals and objectives of each company’s philanthropic programming.
For many Pledge 1% companies, Googling the company name and “Pledge 1%” can lead you to articles and press releases that discuss the company’s commitment.
You may also find some good case studies (for the company you are interested in!) within the Pledge 1% Community Blog.
A company’s website is a good place to dig deeper, and some targeted searching can be helpful.
- Look generally for references to the nonprofits – or types of nonprofits – the company supports financially, in product, or in staff volunteer hours.
- Are there references or specific webpages that discuss sustainability, community affairs, community relations, social responsibility, etc. that might point you in the right direction?
- What does the company’s employee benefits package look like? Do they offer matching gift programs, volunteer opportunities, etc.?
- If the company publishes an ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) or CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) report, you’ll typically find some really great detail in it relating to both philanthropic initiatives and impact.
Lastly, for public companies, you may find some information in their SEC filings. The DEF14A (proxy statement) is a good place to start, but I have also seen references in S-1, 8K, 10-K and 10-Q filings.
If you are exploring how corporate philanthropy can help your nonprofit, it will be important to look more broadly than just the Pledge 1% participants. There are millions of companies that haven’t signed the pledge – and many are still deeply committed to their corporate philanthropy programs. Many of my search tips will work more broadly as well!