The Business Case for an Equity Strategy Part 2: Leverage Your Product for Good
Last week we published the first post in our five-part series on the business case for tech companies to invest in an equity strategy. Part one explored the benefits of engaging on policy issues important to the community. In part two, we examine how companies can build better relationships with the community by applying their tools to social problems. We will highlight companies who are actively marketing their products for social good and examine ways to improve this model.
Technology has the power to drive enormous impact across all sectors of our society. To help nonprofit organizations create impact many tech companies donate products or offer discounted prices through platforms like TechSoup, a tech marketplace for nonprofits. A quick look through TechSoup and you’ll find dozens of products at heavily discounted prices. For example, Microsoft donates its office suite with up to 50 licenses for a fraction of the regular price.
But without the know-how to implement those tools effectively, many organizations aren’t able to take advantage of those offers. Some nonprofits like Code for America are full of tech-savvy people, but many others lack technical capacity on staff. Nonprofit teams are often unsure how to use new technology and don’t always have the resources to invest in training.
NTEN’s 2017 report on nonprofit staffing and technology investments highlights that nonprofits only allocate about 5% of their budget for tech. Tech companies have an opportunity to contribute to increased impact by adapting their donation practice to help nonprofits realize the full power of their tech products.
If product donations are part of your company’s giving strategy, here are three methods to increase impact.
First, include in-depth user support for in-kind donations. Some tech companies are finding ways to improve the donation model and pivoting to new a tactic called digital transformation. For example, Twilio* created its social impact arm, Twilio.org, to go beyond product donations and provide technical, financial, and strategic support to nonprofits.
Twilio’s approach helps ensure that community organizations can utilize the full power of the Twilio platform. In the same way that Airbnb used Twilio’s programmable SMS to automate the rental experience for travelers, Democracy Works was able to streamline their voter registration process using the same technology. Twilio.org helped Democracy Works reach 1 million eligible voters during the 2016 election cycle.
Second, when you determine how to leverage your product, make sure you’re testing your hypothesis with the end-user. When you build a new feature for your product, that process is grounded in data and user testing. The same attention to user needs for donated or in-kind services and products will ensure donations are achieving impact.
Salesforce developed the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) to help nonprofits use Salesforce out-of-the-box. Salesforce developed the NPSP in partnership with nonprofits to ensure the NPSP actually met the needs of the nonprofit community. The NPSP helped the nonprofit, Women Win, move from financial and narrative reports to utilizing dashboards and detailed data analysis to drive increased impact.
Third, transparency is a key ingredient when considering how you can leverage your product. When Uber tried to make a donation to Black Girls Code in 2017 the organization turned it down, uninterested in what they felt was a self-serving PR opportunity for the company. The tech community rallied behind the organization following the announcement, raising over $145,000 in a weekend. Tech companies who are engaged, helpful, and genuine will develop more authentic partnerships with nonprofits.
The digital transformation strategy is gaining momentum with tech companies looking to increase the impact of their product. Empowering community organizations to effectively implement technology helps companies build trust with the community, offers opportunities for meaningful employee engagement (more on this in parts five and six of this blog series), and builds positive brand recognition.
If you work for a tech company and you’re looking to deepen your company’s community engagement, get in touch! We’d love to chat.
*TechEquity Corporate Partner