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22 May. 2019 | Comments (0)

If you were the founder or CEO of a start-up company or later-stage firm, would you be willing to pledge 1 percent of your equity to charity? How about 1 percent of your profit? Or your products? Or your staff time? Pledge 1% is a global on-line movement that encourages and empowers companies of all sizes and stages to do just that.

The founders of Pledge 1% believe that all companies have the capacity to give; it just takes the knowledge and flexibility to decide what way best suits a company’s values, culture, business goals and stage of development.

If a company doesn’t have much cash or profit to give at an early stage of development, it’s possible that pledging 1 percent of your equity is a quick and easy way to get started. Businesses can pledge company equity at an early stage without diluting the value of the company, and this kind of pledge sets the tone for future funders and employees. Alternatively, founders can make personal equity pledges, which most likely will not require board or stakeholder approval.

Another way to give without spending cash or pledging equity is employee time through volunteering in your community. This can be done through traditional hands-on volunteering like serving meals at a homeless shelter or cleaning up a waterfront in teams or individually. Or by encouraging employees to use their business skills (e.g., marketing, finance, technology) to help nonprofit organizations in their communities. One percent of a 40 hour work week is 20 minutes or about two days a year, so making this kind of pledge will motivate your employees to spend time making a difference in their communities.

Likewise, pledging 1 percent of your products—either your products in full or by discounting your products for charitiescan be an effective way of supporting nonprofit organizations in your community. Some typical ways of doing this, according to the Pledge 1% website are: tech products in existing form (via software or licenses), tech products in a form revamped specifically for nonprofit use, hardware or goods, and services.

Pledge 1% counts 8,500 companies (mostly start-ups and early-stage firms) from over 100 countries as members. A few of these companies are highlighted on the organization’s website, including:

  • Twilio This company started by giving product to social impact organizations from its cloud communications platform and then launched an employee volunteer program. Later, it pledged 1 percent of its equity over a 10-year period and created a donor-advised fund at Tides. “We launched the Impact Fund to support both nonprofits and social enterprises,” said Erika Balbuena, head of strategic initiatives at Twilio. “We want to do even more to deploy capital and provide access to communications that will scale impact.”
  • Okta This identity and access management firm wanted to break down some of the perceived barriers between members of various communities and the tech sector, especially in communities where it operates. So, Okta opened its doors to the public in offices around the world by hosting a week-long event called Tech Week. Tech Week reached 2,000 students and jobseekers through in-person workshops and career counseling sessions, and it provided a great opportunity for Okta employees to come together across offices to give back and connect with their local communities.
  • Box Box, a cloud content management and file sharing company, works with TechSoup Global on giving product through It started by identifying youth enablement, social equity, and health as the pillars of, and then partnered with TechSoup to donate products through TechSoup’s global network. “ believes that nonprofits and tech can do more together,” said Bryan Breckenridge, executive director of “We are committed to enabling nonprofits to innovate and fulfill their social missions be elevating their technology.”

In return, Pledge 1% lists the following benefits to companies for making a pledge:

  • Joining Pledge 1%’s community of like-minded leaders will help build your network.
  • Pledge 1% boosts your bottom line.
  • Pledge 1% helps you hire and keep top talent.
  • The 1% model is easy to implement.

It’s completely up to the pledging company or individual to decide what nonprofit organizations and causes to support. Pledge 1% operates as a platform and resource provider, and does not promote specific charities or causes on its site.

This piece was originally published on CSR Now!

  • About the Author:Timothy J. McClimon

    Timothy J. McClimon

    Timothy J. McClimon is President of the American Express Foundation and Senior Vice President for Corporate Social Responsibility, American Express Company.  In this role, he directs all of the A…

    Full Bio | More from Timothy J. McClimon


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