August 31, 2015 | Announcements, Thoughts

Tech for good: form your own social impact program

We at Fast Forward want to help burgeoning tech for good leaders. We believe that by guiding tech for good programs, we can help them maximize impact and promote the ecosystem of using technology for social good.

We have recently interviewed people at companies from across the spectrum in their tech for good program maturity, from small mobile game companies new to promoting social impact, to well-established foundations at mid-sized SaaS companies, to large financial giants that have enormous resources.

Before we tell you what we’ve found, let’s define what we mean by tech for good. Given the extreme success in the technology industry over the past 20 years, technology companies have a lot to offer the social impact space, all of which we consider tech for good:

  • Donating money to nonprofits through a corporate foundation, employee matching program, or other method
  • Skills-based volunteering, where tech employees offer their business and technical expertise to nonprofits
  • Offering free or reduced-price product and product support (e.g. Box.org)
  • Running an accelerator that promotes social good for-profits or nonprofits (e.g. co.lab)

Pro-tip: One way organizations can solidify their corporate giving is by signing the Bay Area Founders Pledge or by Pledging 1%.

We’ve found that tech for good programs are known by many names – .org, foundation, X for good, corporate social responsibility, community engagement – but are united in their belief that technology can be used as a lever for scalable impact.

The motivation to start a tech for good program differs for each company. Some companies are excited about their own product and want to release it to the social good world; others hope to improve employee engagement, talent recruitment, and retention; some want to look good in the world; and others just want to do good in the world.

When donating time, some employees might donate their time to a local soup kitchen, and others might mentor a tech nonprofit thinking through a tough product decision. When donating resources, some companies might donate money because it’s easier and more hands-off, and others might donate product and implementation because it’s engaging and more hands-on.

We found that tech for good veterans, at least in the Bay Area, all know each other and have regular meetups – but importantly, we found the network strength does not extend to those companies who are newer to tech for good. To pursue our own mission of expanding the tech for good ecosystem, we want to help these new leaders. So here are our suggestions to you, the new and excited tech for good employee:

  • Check out the SF Gives Playbook
  • Figure out your tech for good value proposition, both to your company and to the world at large
    Company: How will your program improve the business? Will it attract Millennials to work for you, improve customer brand loyalty, or something else?
    World: How can you maximize impact? Do you have a product that is particularly valuable to nonprofits, mentorship expertise for tech nonprofits, money, or something else?
  • Get executive buy-in (or be an executive). Without it, you’ll have to make a stronger business case; with it, you can pursue maximally impactful initiatives whether or not they help your bottom line.
  • Network. You’re not the first, and other tech for good programs have been in your shoes before. If you need help figuring out how to convince upper management or how to decide what initiatives to run, your network can help.

As a first step, if you work at a tech company and are interested in joining the tech for good movement, please contact Fast Forward to learn more.