Salesforce’s main customer conference has arrived in San Francisco. For the next week, attendees will be showered with information about updates to the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) platform and a torrent of success stories. But a big part of Dreamforce is its charitable giving, and this year, Salesforce has opted to go global: It’s encouraging its customers to help raise $1 million for the (RED) Foundation in its fight to eradicate AIDS.
Founded 10 years ago by U2 frontman Bono, (RED) allows people and businesses to contribute to the fight against this global disease. More than 35 million people have died from AIDS, and more than 37 million people are currently living with HIV. While more than $350 million has been raised in the past decade, this year, the foundation is replenishing its global fund, which is where Dreamforce comes in.
(RED) normally raises funds when people purchase eligible branded products, such as Apple’s iPod Touch, Nike shoelaces, Dell computers, and Monster Cable special edition Beats by Dre headphones. In keeping with this idea, Salesforce is setting up a pop-up store in the middle of Dreamforce, where attendees can purchase useful items — like an iPhone charger — that they may need during the conference. The proceeds will go toward the campaign.
“We’ve never raised funds for a global organization before, so we’re really excited,” said Salesforce chief philanthropy officer Suzanne DiBianca. She emphasized that Dreamforce is no stranger to nonprofits, as more than 9,000 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will attend the conference and will host 118 sessions to share how they’ve used mobile solutions to solve problems in developing nations. And with (RED), Salesforce is “trying to bring a global message” to the forefront, DiBianca said.
A fund of $1 million may not seem like a large amount for Salesforce — after all, its annual concerts have raised $45 million, to date, for the University of California, San Francisco Children’s Hospital that bears the name of Salesforce cofounder and chief executive Marc Benioff. But this is more about encouraging other companies to give back.
DiBianca explained that this year’s campaign is “a perfect example of how Salesforce’s 1/1/1 model plays out. When talking about giving [a piece of] your product, time, and resources, (RED) is an example of what it means.” For years, Salesforce and Benioff have touted the benefits of the 1% Pledge, a promise companies like Twilio, Atlassian, Okta, DocuSign, Box, Weebly, Oracle, Yelp, and others have made to donate 1% of their equity, product, and time to social causes.
So while $1 million may seem paltry compared to other of Salesforce’s fundraising efforts, the company believes that it can convince businesses to participate in (RED) for the long-term. After all, a big part of the foundation involves corporate sponsorship, and this campaign will bring awareness to the more than 170,000 people expected to attend the event.
To sweeten the deal, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged a 2-to-1 dollar match of donations made to (RED) during Dreamforce.
“I think that in what we all do, creating all these tech companies, creating all these exciting ideas, ventures, and self-driving cars, and networks, computers, and exploding phones, we should also never forget about helping other people,” Benioff said last month at TechCrunch Disrupt when asked about giving back.
Our companies are incredible resources, and I’ve seen this through my entire career; there’s all this incredible value in our companies, starting with our employees, of course. The technology we’re making is extremely valuable and important, as well, the financial resources, the relationships we can bring to bear, and so when you have this incredible value, how can you use it to actually improve the state of the world? And that’s why I just strongly believe that the business of business is to improve the state of the world.
It’s this type of thinking that customers are looking for. According to DiBianca, Salesforce customers are looking to the company for guidance and inspiration. “Yes, it’s about enterprise software, amazing products, and Einstein,” she said. “But the unique element to Salesforce is to inspire them to higher values.”
Updated as of 2:25 p.m. Pacific on Wednesday: Marc Benioff revealed that he will also match donations through his family foundation.