Previewing Dreamforce 2019
Yes, Dreamforce is next week. Once again, the sold-out show will be headquartered at San Francisco’s Moscone Center and overflowing to the ballrooms of neighboring hotels. Over the years Dreamforce has become, in my mind at least, the Las Vegas of trade shows in one important respect. Both are famous for being bastions of excess. Vegas has excesses of the sensual kind while Dreamforce offers a business and technology equivalent.
I’ve given up counting the keynotes (one per cloud–at least) the themes like equality and Customer 360, the tradeshow floor, the Trailhead floor, and the classy touches. For instance, I know Marc Benioff will have a fireside chat with President Barak Obama and the big entertainment will be courtesy of Fleetwood Mac. You could have a full stop with just that, but there’s a lot more.
I have been hugely impressed with the company’s orientation towards giving back to the community, which, at this point, is the world basically. They’ve innovated a Philanthropy Cloud which is a 21st century tool for bringing together donors, resources, and charitable recipients. What’s impressive is that it provides a way for any individual and any company to become more involved with philanthropic giving without imposing a lot of overhead on the business or its balance sheet.
Philanthropy Cloud gives organizations ways to offer community involvement to employees. They aren’t forced into activities that foster community improvement, but the system makes it possible for those interested in specific philanthropic activities–from working in soup kitchens to restoring wilderness–ways to find opportunities, kindred spirits, and to volunteer their time.
There’s good reason for offering philanthropic opportunities to employees. Research shows that a company’s attitude toward philanthropy is both a hiring tool and something that engages employees and encourages them to remain with a company instead of seeking new jobs. In a tight job market what can be more useful? Moreover, even when there aren’t more jobs than candidates, having a retention tool that helps businesses keep their most valued people, is a very good thing. It’s also a great way to raise a company’s public profile without a lot of expensive advertising and PR.
I’ve been involved with the Salesforce philanthropy group for several years and I’ll be hosting a panel discussion at Dreamforce with three executives who’ve implemented their own philanthropy ideas and who work with the Philanthropy Cloud and United Way to give back to their communities.
Most of the data about corporate giving that I’ve seen has been gleaned from the Fortune 1000. But what’s cool about the panelists is that they’re from mid-size companies, they don’t have big budgets for philanthropy, and they got their efforts going thanks to the vision of their executives, not because some Salesforce person called on them and sold some software.
I’ve spoken with the panelists and it’s impressive how much demand is out there for corporate sponsored philanthropic activity and how many executives and founders have made it a personal challenge to do something for their communities. Our panelists include Tim Britt, CEO of Synoptec, Melissa Grimes COO of Nextep, and Orv Kimbrough CEO of Midwest Bank Center. Each has a unique story to tell and their stories come together around the ideas of executive leadership, developing programs that are based on a business’ strengths, and some technology that can remove a lot of the overhead that can make extracurricular activities costly and unworkable.
The Salesforce Philanthropy Cloud reminds me that the company is increasingly becoming a platform and tools company and I know we’ll se many examples at Dreamforce. There’s no doubt Salesforce will continue in its CRM ways for a very long time. But CRM was the first demonstration project for the tools and platform and now philanthropy is the second. Perhaps that’s the most important idea for Dreamforce this year.
It’s been true for a long time that Salesforce had a powerful platform and the thousands of independent vendors offering tens of thousands of apps through the AppExchange (and the millions of downloads) that are based on the platform is ample evidence of the platform’s power. Combining all that with corporate social responsibility will only further cement Salesforce’s attractiveness in the boardroom.
If you’re at Dreamforce next week, look up our session. It’s on Wednesday 10 AM at the Union Square Hilton, but confirm it on the Dreamforce app, just in case it’s (probably) full. If philanthropy is on your radar this year, and it kinda should be, please stop by.