Connecting Culture to Bottom Line Impact

Posted by on July 21, 2017 in CSR, Non-Profit

11407064_10204271402602097_4299607185793737517_nDropbox isn’t interested in lip service. It wants citizen philanthropists.

That’s why the company has applied considerable energy and resources towards community impact in ways that can be embraced by all of its employees. The company’s “Dropbox for Good” program – with chapters in 13 global offices – has donated $1 million collectively in employee donations, donated 8,900 provisioned licenses to nonprofits, and logged more than 4,000 hours of volunteer time over the past three years.

Joe Wheeler, Social Impact Manager of Dropbox, believes that these accomplishments reflect the values which drive Dropbox. With 500 million people using Dropbox to store their most valuable information, one of the company’s core values is “be worthy of trust.”

Wheeler is a self described optimist with a personal disposition to want to say yes to everything. “A lot of people in CSR feel that way,” he says. “They’re passionate, idealistic changemakers.”

He believes that successful CSR programs have targeted goals and detailed metrics for how they’re measuring their impact. At Dropbox, that means connecting the company’s overall CSR initiatives to the goals of the company across every department.

“The focus on values translates into many aspects of the business,” says Wheeler. Evaluating progress on its product, quarterly goals, hiring process – all of these steps incorporate a “we, not I” relationship to the world. “Our values help shape the work that we do,” says Wheeler.

For Wheeler, that means questioning how the programs they’re setting up with Dropbox for Good reflect an example of living the company’s values, in the office and outside.

Making an impact through intrinsic motivation
As part of the company’s citizenship philanthropy model, employees are given four paid volunteer days per year to pursue the causes they’re passionate about. Dropbox provides resources and builds strong community partnerships so that there are ways for employees to plug into the larger Dropbox initiatives.

For example, in its Bay Area office, Dropbox is a Circle the Schools corporate partner and has been awarded the San Francisco Education Fund’s 2015-16 Distinguished Service Award for its work helping local high school students with college and career mentorship. Dropbox wants to smooth the path for kids of all backgrounds to build careers in technology.

“For any kid who’s interested in technology, there should be as many ways to break in as possible,” explains Wheeler.

Towards that end, Dropbox and Mission High School are co-creating a Maker studio in the city’s Mission District, an extracurricular space filled with laptops and coding and design software for students to learn technology skills and for teachers to have the freedom to use the space in whatever way they deem best.

Leveraging CSR to support your business
Wheeler wants to align Dropbox’s CSR initiatives with what other parts of the company are engaged in and align volunteer opportunities with other departmental priorities. For example, Dropbox’s Hack Week – held twice per year – allows people to pursue creative projects outside of their normal job roles. Sometimes, people create new product apps, other times they use Hack Week towards socially conscious efforts that fit into Dropbox for Good. Oftentimes, the result ends up becoming part of the product.

“That’s a big effort,” says Wheeler. “Teams across every part of the company should be working towards the same goal, in unison, across issues like equity, diversity, inclusion and social impact.”

In an effort to support women in technology, Dropbox has a partnership with Technovation, an entrepreneurship nonprofit for young women. Their mission involves middle and high school girls identifying social impact problems that they care about and then creating app ideas to address them. Mentors from companies like Dropbox help the girls with all aspects of their app, including the rollout, and then different teams from all over the world compete each year for seed funding for their idea.

Wheeler is always looking at the next horizon of growth for Dropbox for Good to keep the program evolving, making it even more focused and communicating more internally and externally to drive more impact.

“The goal is to keep inspiring and motivating our employees and even other companies to push the envelope on giving back,” says Wheeler.

Ryan Scott

Ryan Scott is a technology entrepreneur who founded Causecast in 2007, driven to help companies harness their power to do good. Through Causecast’s work in developing public service campaigns for leading brands, Scott observed how even the most socially responsible businesses typically under-utilize their best cause advocates; their employees. In researching this phenomenon he discovered that most of the technology to manage employee volunteering and corporate philanthropy was created in the previous century and was struggling to work at the scale that we need to move the needle on the social issues we face.

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