Salesforce Doubles Down on its Force for Good Program

The Salesforce Foundation’s Force for Change program has been a big component of the foundation’s grantmaking since 2010. For five years, Salesforce dedicated around $1 million and $2 million annually, with individual grants ranging from $200,000 to $250,000, to NGOs and nonprofit higher education institutions around the world “that are focused on using technology in innovative, forward-thinking ways that will have a meaningful social impact.”

Now the foundation is doubling down on this front. 

The Salesforce Foundation recently announced a $4 million commitment to the Force for Good program in 2016. The program is aligning its 2016 grantmaking with the current United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs. In 2015, nearly 200 world leaders committed to 17 SDGs—which either built upon or replaced the former Millennium Development Goals—with the goal of ending poverty, combating inequality and injustice, and fixing climate change.

The Salesforce Foundation’s Force for Good grants will largely focus on SDG #4, which calls for inclusive, equitable, quality education for everyone, and SDG #8, which promotes long-term, sustainable, and inclusive economic growth. A third point of interest for the foundation is referred to as Labs, and it’s a bit more vague than the other two, focusing on “solutions designed to make substantial progress against other SDGs.” Of course, there are 17 total SDGs, so that ambiguity represents a pretty wide-open funding door for groups applying technological innovations to affect positive social change in order to better serve local communities.

The foundation has not yet released the number of Force for Good grants it plans to award nor has it made any mention of how much money it will be granting. But if history holds, grant amounts will be rather substantial. Oh, and the program is currently accepting unsolicited letters of inquiry until July 29. Interested parties can learn how to submit an LOI here. But hurry!

The Bay Area Salesforce Foundation’s brand of philanthropy differs from most other corporate funders in that it is based on Marc Benioff’s integrated 1-1-1 model, which devotes 1 percent of the tech company’s equity, 1 percent of its profits, and 1 percent of its employees’ time to charity.

In a guest post for Forbes, Benioff claimed that the model was no big deal in the beginning, as the company had no employees, profits or equity. That story has changed rather dramatically since those early days. The company now has nearly 20,000 employees worldwide and $4.1 billion in revenue (2015). And that 1-1-1 model has resulted in the installation of Salesforce software in more than 28,000 schools and nonprofits, over $115 million in grants awarded, and some 1.3 million in employee volunteer hours.

So what’s Benioff’s endgame here? Basically, he wants to use the 1-1-1 standard, or what he refers to as a “pay-as-you-go” model, to “improve communities throughout the world.” That pay-as-you-go model essentially calls for the world’s wealthy to spend their money as they earn it not only to continue to develop their personal philanthropic ethos, but also to see the impact, successes and failures of their donations. And while the foundation has expanded its global philanthropic footprint, it remains strongly rooted in local causes, as we've reported. 

Related: Which Five Bay-Area Organizations Just Landed $10 Million Each From the Salesforce Foundation?

Meanwhile, the Salesforce Foundation’s global giving appears to be in the learning or experimental phase. As a whole, it’s still difficult to tell where the foundation will land or what pressing global health and development challenges it will home in on beyond Force for Change’s focus on SDGs #4 and #8. So far, we’ve seen the foundation give big to combat the global AIDS epidemic with a $5 million pledge to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Regardless of where the foundation and Benioff go with their global grantmaking, it stands to reason that some of those supported causes will mirror that of their local giving—namely in poverty alleviation, education, and access to quality, affordable healthcare.