Three starting points for an effective social impact

Yancey Spruill, CEO at Digital Ocean.

The past few years have taught us some powerful lessons and made us realize how connected our world has become. Importantly, we have seen that, despite the real difficulties in the world, there is also an immense amount of good, with people working together in small and large ways to improve our society. These events have led to a higher priority of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives and have allowed CEOs and leaders to take a closer look at how they manage their teams, business and philanthropy.

At DigitalOcean, we have always considered “Love is at our core” as an intrinsic value. It was with love that our first official social impact program, Hub for Good, was launched in 2018. Last year, at our IPO, we announced that we would change the name to Hollie’s Hub for Good to honor a beloved employee who suddenly passed away shortly before we went public. We have also joined the Pledge 1% movement, pledging to spend at least $ 50 million over the next 10 years to build DO Impact, our social impact platform.

I believe in running a company to optimize results for customers, employees and investors, and it is also my belief that an important element is also addressing the communities to which our main constituencies are a part. As a derivative, we also need to be aware of their communities as a lever to drive this optimization. It is Ben Franklin’s concept of “doing well by doing good”. The two are not mutually exclusive and work best when they are both aligned with the company’s mission.

It is important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to social impact, but there are a few starting points that I believe executives should keep in mind as they and their teams create corporate social impact programs, regardless of their scale.

Give the initiative the respect it deserves

We owe our employees and communities to do more and harness our talents and resources to help the communities we live in and the customers we serve.

The social impact of businesses must be seen as a fundamental business unit. Whether that means a full department, part-time role, or committee of employees, it must have an organizational structure with goals, budget and accountability.

Any official program will need a champion and leader to activate and empower initiatives aimed at having a wider social impact. This may not be a vice president or a C level, but ultimately there has to be a person leading the charge.

Like any other internal organization, a social impact team must be held accountable for the results of its program. Respect for that type of responsibility is due to the initiative and to the people who have made CSR their professional path.

Find a way to be a force multiplier

An effective social impact program must look beyond its office walls to make a meaningful impact. Particularly for tech companies, their greatest assets tend to be the technology they create, the customers they serve, and the people they employ. Use these resources to be a force multiplier and exponentially increase your impact.

Gartner released a study this year that revealed 56% of respondents said the pandemic made them want to contribute more to society. Employees want to contribute something good to the world, and business leaders should see this as an opportunity to be exploited. Provide your employees and customers with products and resources to be the force for change, and they will gladly do so.

In addition to regularly pledging capital and corresponding donations to employees, go a step further by encouraging and sponsoring them to donate time and skills to nonprofits and NGOs. This effort supports our community with valuable knowledge, but also supports employees’ desire to be responsible for change and adds further meaning to their lives and livelihoods.

Hold yourself and the company accountable

Measuring performance is essential and it is vital to hold yourself, your company and the team leading the prosecution accountable for the results. Like any other area of ​​a business, the effectiveness of a social impact program will increase and decrease, and like any business unit, you will need to adjust and evaluate regularly. That is fine!

Last year we released the results of our first DEI report (diversity, equity and inclusion). I’ll be honest: the core report showed that we had a lot of work to do to satisfy the perspectives and experiences of our global customer base. But now we have a starting point. This kind of transparency is essential to making the necessary changes to our recruiting and retention efforts, and we have KPIs and metrics in place.

We are responsible for achieving our DEI goals, as well as our impact goals. I believe it is an integral part of our business strategy to deliver excellent results for our major groups of customers, employees and investors. The community is bigger than us; this is something we can all learn.


The Forbes Technology Council is an invite-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs, and technology executives. I qualify


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