Philanthropy has become a critical issue for the technology industry today. Take the example of Marc Benioff, CEO at Salesforce.com. He has been persistently encouraging enterprises to make contributions. And then there’s Bill Gates. Among all these tech billionaires, there is one person who has managed to stay on top of his philanthropy game. This person is none other than John Chambers, CEO of Cisco.
Becoming role models for the society
There is no denying the fact that Cisco is among the major technology enterprises in the Silicon Valley and is well-known for its donations and generosity. We are aware that Chambers donates or gives back on a regular basis. In 2011, there was a press release that spoke about a staggering $750,000 donation for establishing a cancer research institute at the West Virginia University.
John Chambers doesn’t like to make his philanthropic efforts public. However, he has recently come out and been more vocal about it because some companies told him that the ‘society needs role models.’ This statement resonated with Chambers. His parents served as doctors, and he firmly believes that it is the duty of successful people to help those struggling in the society.
So what motivates the CEO of such a large tech enterprise? Well, you might be surprised to know that he makes a special effort to personally follow the progress of each employee who is reported extremely sick. He does the same for an employee’s sick child or spouse. And Chambers is dyslexic. So he believes that the two areas of healthcare and education can make the biggest difference in a society’s progress.
How it began
It was back in 1984 that the Stanford University couple Sandra Lerner and Leonard Bosack created Cisco Systems. This enterprise continued to develop and started selling products which helped support communication between computer systems. With the growth in networking, the sales of the company shot off, and it finally went public in the year 1990. Cisco had already accumulated revenues of $22 billion by 2001.
As of 2002, the corporate philanthropy policy of Cisco was based on one clear strategy, making the best possible use of Cisco’s distinct and creative Internet competencies for bringing about global worldwide change. To execute this policy, the Cisco Foundation, along with other corporate entities, contributed over $205 million.
The three key philanthropic efforts of Cisco are:
- Community Investment Fund (CIF)
- Global Partnerships (the United Nations, Habitat for Humanity, etc.)
- The Cisco Foundation.
Building future’s workforce
Cisco has a dedicated CSR policy that focuses on education partnerships and programs. The objective is to enhance students’ accessibility to quality education all over the world. For this, the company uses the combined forces of human collaboration and network technology.
Why focus on education while operating in the corporate world? Well, the answer is simple, it is the quickest and easiest way to build the future workforce.
Involve employees in the company’s philanthropic efforts
Cisco is leading the way in demonstrating how enterprises can make practical policies that allow employees to become part of their philanthropic efforts. Employees aren’t just workers who need to be skilled at their job and deliver quality work within deadlines. Your employees are smaller instruments of a big channel that is your company. This company has a well-defined ideology, vision, and mission and the employees must imbibe these values to achieve personal growth and professional success.
Meet Conrad Clemson, the senior vice president for strategy at the Cisco Service Provider Video Technology Group. He was recently looking for innovative ways to make the most out of his philanthropic dollars. The man found his answer within the ‘Employee Product Donation Program’ (EPDP) which allows employees to buy the majority of the Cisco products at a 75 percent discount. The money is donated to registered non-profit organizations as well as schools in the U.S.
Conrad informs that EPDP is a highly flexible program and allows employees and teams to make a significant difference to schools and other entities trying to develop world-class IT infrastructure. The recipient entity’s total buying power is tripled with the support of this program. He adds that this program is a brilliant marriage of employee charity and the Cisco ideology.
The importance of the ‘community.’
Back when Cisco had just been a few years into operation, John Morgrage, the then CEO managed to build and institutionalize a philanthropic culture. In his opinion, it was possible for a corporation to provide profits to its shareholders while also supporting communities and individuals. After all, it is the community and its people that ultimately ensure the success of a business.
The corporation started off with small-scale activities that were focused on building community relations. As the philanthropic efforts of Cisco began to expand, they were incorporated into a well-defined program which utilized the intellectual and technical capabilities of employees for the corporation’s philanthropic investments.
Cisco finally launched the Cisco Systems Foundation in 1997 with $65 million and formally instituted its philanthropic commitments. The corporate philanthropy team of Cisco did some research in the field of employee interest with regards to its ‘matching gift program.’ It found that most corporations almost only donated cash. According to Cisco, a program which utilized all resources of the company, people, financial resources, and technology, would have a much greater impact than mere cash charity.