The many faces of tech volunteerism

Tech companies find volunteer programs can boost employee engagement while making a difference in their communities.

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Techies pitch in

Tech companies are as creative in their social and charitable works as they are in their businesses. Cleaning up parks, teaching kids about technology, boxing donated food, running races – the projects are too numerous to list. We heard from dozens of tech vendors, big and small, about how they make time for employees to volunteer and participate in fundraising opportunities. While the events are all different, the outcome is universal: Giving back benefits not only the designated recipients but also the tech companies, which find employees are happier and work culture is stronger. Here are some of their firsthand accounts.

SEE ALSO: 12 habits of successful tech CEOs | 14 go-to tools for Mac sysadmins | Not your father's computer science building

kcura
kCura gives students access to tech, equipment, training

"We created the Wired to Learn grant program to provide classroom technology to under-resourced schools in our area. We’re passionate about leveling the technology playing field for students, and the growth we’ve seen is inspirational. If other companies were to join us, it would lead to even more positive change. For that reason, we developed a playbook to pave the way for other companies to jump in and make a difference." – Dorie Blesoff, chief people officer at e-discovery software maker kCura

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Credit: VoltDB
VoltDB: Being charitable is a core tenet

"If you look at our five core beliefs, being charitable every day is number one. The reason that's there is not for us to do something for someone outside of the company, necessarily. It's to think charitably toward our fellow humans and to be kind and generous and thoughtful about their needs … We try to live it every day, both internally in the way we treat one another and externally in how we behave in the community." – Bruce Reading, CEO of in-memory database company VoltDB

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Credit: Cisco
Cisco employees drive CSR initiatives around the world

"Everything we do in regards to corporate social responsibility is through the lens of technology. We think that it's really important, that you are going to be most successful and most sustainable in these efforts when you apply your core competency to issues that are important to you." – Kathy Mulvany, vice president of corporate affairs at Cisco

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Credit: Commvault
Commvault's charitable initiatives include Hockey Helping Kids program

"The best part of doing charitable work is meeting the families from the charities, learning and seeing the great work they're doing, then coming back the following year to see the benefits that we've been able to assist with. Oftentimes the best parts of the events are ‘inclusion’ or getting the children, often with disabilities, on the NHL ice, participating and sharing the experience with everyone. I am a fortunate father of a boy who was diagnosed with severe autism. Through a lot of work, cost and effort, he is now a 21-year-old sophomore in college with a 3.2 GPA. He grew up playing high school-level ice hockey. Inclusion was a key for his success growing up, which is why we make it a point to include the kids of the charities we're often working with." – Randy DeMeno, chief technologist at data mangement company Commvault

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Ciena's initiatives include companywide day of service

"Giving back to the community – whether it’s through building a new house for Habitat for Humanity, cleaning up a local park, or providing equipment and resources to a local university – provides a great sense of camaraderie and compassion among employees. Through our Ciena Cares program, employees can see the differences they are making in their communities, which helps bring cohesion and purpose within the company." – Gary Smith, CEO of networking solutions provider Ciena

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Credit: Canvas
Canvas donates mobile tech, skills through its Ante Up program

"Instead of the company telling [our employees], 'hey, here are the not-for-profits we’re supporting, you get behind them,' we said, 'you guys can choose a not-for-profit where this would make a big difference to them.' The company will ante up the product, and we’ll even pay you and your travel expenses and give you the time off to go work with that not-for-profit for two weeks a year. But you have to ante up and really commit that you’re going to give them your time to make this work and treat them like a valuable customer." – James Quigley, CEO and co-founder of mobile app development platform Canvas

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Credit: The Nerdery
The Nerdery helps nonprofits create websites with 24-hour volunteer blitz

"As a custom software design and development company, it’s particularly gratifying to use our time and talent to help nonprofits engineer software they couldn’t otherwise afford, and rewarding to see nonprofit organizations move forward with websites that improve their ability to build community, raise funds, organize volunteers and deliver services to the communities they serve – our community service grows exponentially in theirs." – Mark Malmberg, communication director at The Nerdery

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Symantec focuses on four philanthropic areas: STEM education, diversity, online safety, environment

"I love my job. I love the impact that we’re able to make, especially with the Cyber Career Connection program. Those are lives that we’re changing. We've seen people who weren’t on a trajectory toward IT or cybersecurity now working in cybersecurity … It's very rewarding to be able to have some kind of hand in that." – Jaime Barclay, corporate responsibility manager at Symantec

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OnProcess Technology builds community through teamwork

"It has been said that employees who are engaged in charitable opportunities are better and happier employees. That is exactly the effect OnProcess’ Make a Difference (MAD) Committee has within our company. MAD members are excited to be a part of something that makes the community a better place, and they’re confident in their ability to make a difference … I am proud to work for a company where people are really passionate about their mission." – John Piascik, process quality auditor at managed services provider OnProcess Technology

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Stratasys works with nonprofits to provide 3D-printed prosthetics

"Stratasys has contributed 3D printers to schools and fab-labs, helping students create new paths for design and innovation in ways once thought impossible ... Stratasys also shapes lives by revolutionizing medical innovation. Our team works closely with non-profits like Magic Arms and Limbitless Solutions to assist in building life-changing 3D-printed orthotics and prosthetics. ... We believe 3D printing has the power to change lives, and our social responsibility initiatives are aimed at doing just that." – Arita Mattsoff, vice president public and industry analyst relations at 3D-printing company Stratasys

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InCrowd turns mishap into bonding opportunity at service event

"Our company service day quickly showed how philanthropy bonds teammates when I fell off a boat dock and was submerged in about six feet of 50-degree water in Boston Harbor. Instead of leading the group, as a CEO should, I had to be rescued and get first aid. Everyone had to step outside his or her usual role and work harder to compensate for my absence. It was a lesson that none of us is irreplaceable, and that we need each other more than we had realized. In a funny way it bonded us even more as a team." – Janet Kosloff, CEO of market intelligence service provider InCrowd

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Credit: Level 3
Level 3 continues to grow its CSR initiatives

"This is not a branding exercise for Level 3. It really is about employee engagement and getting our employees the opportunity to give back into areas that they’re passionate about." – Laurinda Pang, EVP and chief administrative officer, Level 3 Communications

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LinkedIn For Good connects members, employees

"I feel like I have the greatest job in the world because I am so inspired by the extraordinary appetite of both our employees and the LinkedIn members to want to impact the world. That's a great problem to have, to not be able to keep up with the appetite of your employee and your member base. It's a rewarding challenge." – Meg Garlinghouse, head of LinkedIn Corp.'s LinkedIn for Good

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Credit: Zurb
ZURB rallies for 24-hour nonstop volunteer campaign

"I love being able to support the teams during Wired, [Zurb's annual 24-hour nonprofit campaign]. It’s always so rewarding to watch the process unfold throughout the day and build trust with another team. I hope that the teams we work with take away more than what we created physically. Wired is a great team-building opportunity for everyone involved, ZURB is a stronger team because of wired, and we hope Downtown Streets Team is, too." – Shawna Moser, team coordinator at product design company ZURB

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Credit: Dimension Data
Dimension Data’s initiatives include annual day of service

"Our corporate values define who we are as an organization. With our Heads, Hearts and Hands program, our goal is to make a lasting impact in the areas of youth and education by helping those in need and giving back to local communities around the world. One of the biggest surprises that never gets old, year after year, is seeing the impact on our employees, who form lasting bonds and a shared sense of purpose as they work together to make a difference in people’s lives." – Mark Slaga, CEO of the Americas at IT service provider Dimension Data 

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SanDisk sees volunteerism spike with CEO encouragement

"We are frequently asked for the secret to how we were able to grow our employee volunteerism program from 14% participation to 92% participation worldwide – in one year. We started with the belief that service to our communities must be an integral part of the corporate DNA, then developed and implemented an individual and team volunteerism program that encourages engagement at all levels of the company. Then we added in local and global volunteer opportunities with nonprofit partners whose work resonates with the passions and concerns of our employees around the world … But to be really successful, you need support at senior management level as well. For us, that came in the form of our CEO issuing a challenge to every employee worldwide to get involved." – Gisela Bushey, director of SanDisk Foundation and community relations at flash storage maker SanDisk

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FinancialForce.com strengthens its culture through philanthropy

"The best part of creating a division of your business dedicated to philanthropy is the different sense of pride and accomplishment employees feel when they volunteer together and support their local communities, something that can't be found by sitting at a desk or on a conference call. The interactions and friendships our teams experience during FinancialForce4Good activities are so impactful that others in the company are continually inspired to become involved too, keeping the program rich and supported for years to come." – Jeremy Roche, CEO of cloud ERP provider FinancialForce.com

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Rackspace volunteer initiatives include Code.org annual Hour of Code

"Each year we send Racker volunteers, what we call Rackspace employees, into our seven adopted neighborhood schools to teach coding to students in Kinder-12th grades. It’s incredibly rewarding all around – for the students, the teachers and for the Rackers – to see kids, who have never before been exposed to coding, move from feeling intimidated to experiencing mastery. It’s particularly rewarding when we see kids who have some challenges, either behaviorally or academically, gain a sense of accomplishment and understand the relevance of the lessons … We’re helping create a balanced future workforce if we can ignite the spark in these kids today." – Cara Nichols, director of community affairs at managed cloud provider Rackspace

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Riverbed assists anti-poverty programs, natural disaster relief and disadvantaged youth

"Riverbed is a very human company with very humane values. We like, respect and cherish the people around us. We go out of our way to help others succeed, and support the communities in which we live and work. Our REACH OUT (Riverbed Employees Assisting Community and Helping Out) program is entirely fueled by the passion of our people to make a significant and meaningful impact in our communities. And it’s a win-win – the community benefits, and our employees feel proud to be part of a company focused on doing good." – Jerry Kennelly, chairman and CEO of application peformance company Riverbed

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TE Connectivity sponsors Trike Races to benefit United Way

"While it is so rewarding to work for a company that values the importance of giving back to the communities where we work and live, almost as rewarding is the noticeable pride that our employees feel when they are engaged in these activities." -- Michele Blair, director, global corporate responsibility, at connectivity and sensor specialist TE Connectivity

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Appirio holds annual day of service to encourage volunteerism

"This year for Appirio Silver Lining's Future of the Cloud Day – our annual company-wide day of service – we challenged ourselves to find a way to include all Appirians, even those who aren't close to an office or a city. To do this, we started a series of virtual volunteer opportunities by mailing volunteering packets. Employees from all over the world were able to assemble the kits on Google Hangouts as teams and then donate them to local charities... Looking for innovative ways to globally bring people together on a single day to create that connected experience is key." – Rachel Tallant, director of the human resources program at cloud consultancy Appirio

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Kinsa distributes free smart thermometers

"Kinsa's mission is to help communities better track, treat and stop the spread of illness... To this end, we launched our philanthropic FLUency program. Through the program, the company outfits entire elementary schools – hundreds of families – with free Kinsa Smart Thermometers. Through normal usage, Kinsa is able to create a real-time map of human health, and more quickly alert users when fever and symptoms warrant closer monitoring or a visit to the doctor." – Inder Singh, founder and CEO of smart thermometer maker Kinsa

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Vertafore emphasizes rapid response volunteering, such as lunch delivery for relief workers

"Volunteering has become a part of Vertafore’s DNA. What started as small groups participating in volunteer events a few times a year has launched into a series of major annual events that the entire company gets involved in. At this year’s annual user conference, NetVU, it was the first year we opened up our volunteer event to customers. For many of our attendees, this was their favorite part of the weekend." – Anthony Gomes, senior communications manager at Vertafore, which makes cloud-based insurance software and services

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SAP volunteers help out at Marine Science Institute

"[Volunteerism] is more than something we do one or two times throughout the year. It is practiced year-round and championed in October through our Month of Service initiative. During Month of Service, SAP becomes a national volunteer pool. Our employees are encouraged to bring their personal and professional skills to their local communities to create measurable social impact. We believe that the real power of engagement comes by rolling up our sleeves for positive social change, whether by dedicating our time or our technology." – Kate Morgan, head of corporate social responsibility at SAP North America

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FieldView Solutions finds volunteering fosters employee bonding

"Our charitable donations continue to grow in the number of employees involved as well as donation levels… Last November, nearly all of FieldView Solutions’ employees spent a very cold day sorting and distributing food to families in need. By the end of that hectic day, none of us was tired; we were instead very grateful for what we have and reminded again about the extent of need there is in our own communities. Although we work together here at FieldView Solutions every day, working together on a charity event creates a different kind of a bond between us." – Fred Dirla, CEO of data center monitoring software maker FieldView Solutions

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Blazent's Celebrity Winterfest benefits Special Olympics

"Blazent’s involvement in Special Olympics has touched me in many ways, but I think it can be best summed up as inspirational leadership. Competing alongside the Special Olympic athletes, and seeing them overcome obstacles to achieve goals that many of us would take for granted, is inspirational. The leadership role Blazent plays in Special Olympics sends a powerful message to us, as employees, that attitude and dedication can achieve great results." – Birum (Campy) Campbell, program manager for Blazent/CSC Americas Program

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NetSuite finds volunteerism builds engagement

"Employees that participate in our SuiteImpact Team Volunteer projects have been volunteering at places like St. Anthony’s dining room in San Francisco, serving meals to the homeless and those in need; at SPCA, providing care for rescue animals; and with Presidio Land Trust, doing plant restoration work. These experiences build bonds between employees and provide them with a better understanding of the issues that affect our community and how they can make a positive impact." – Erin Dieterich, director of corporate citizenship at cloud software maker NetSuite

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Credit: Comcast
Comcast drew 100,000+ volunteers for annual day of service

"Comcast Cares Day is a shining example of how our employees, family members, friends and community partners all come together with a similar goal of creating a positive, lasting impact in our communities. Each year I am proud to join the tens of thousands of volunteers who will help improve our neighborhoods, making a positive difference in the lives of others." – David Cohen, senior executive vice president, Comcast Corporation

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Credit: Cloudera
Cloudera Cares grows from grassroots to global

"Cloudera Cares started as a grassroots movement within Cloudera. A number of like-minded employees ('Clouderans') got together and founded a company-supported volunteer group to help coordinate 'giving back' to the company's local and global communities … Not only have we scaled globally, but we have also have started to partner with nonprofits such as DataKind and the Bay Area Discovery Museum. In terms of volunteering, Cloudera Cares hosts multiple events a month that range from working in soup kitchen days to hosting Data-for-Good hackathons/codeathons." – Alison Yu, social media manager at data analytics platform maker Cloudera

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Applied Materials makes commitment to community

"At Applied, our commitment to community reflects the corporate value of making a positive social contribution in regions where we operate. By supporting the strategic work of local charities, we strengthen our reputation with stakeholders and contribute to employee pride and engagement." – Siobhan Kenney, director of global community affairs at semiconductor fabrication equipment supplier Applied Materials

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Grovo aims to improve global digital literacy, boost workforce skills

"With Grovo for Good, we incorporate our product into our workforce development service days. This allows our employees to connect with the work they do daily in a more meaningful way." – Kandace Davis, operations manager at Grovo for Good, the philanthropic arm of learning ecosystem Grovo

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AMD strengthens employee engagement through community service

"Employee volunteerism is as much about providing opportunities for employees to strengthen relationships across different business groups and enhance AMD’s broader corporate initiatives as it is helping our local communities … Nothing brings people together like a common cause, and we know, based on the favorable ratings from employee satisfaction surveys, that employees appreciate that AMD encourages volunteerism." – Susan Moore, corporate vice president of public affairs at chip maker AMD

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Trifacta hosts DataDive to help nonprofits tap into data

”The most rewarding part of the DataDive was applying our skills as data professionals to help address social issues in our very own backyard. By utilizing Trifacta’s data wrangling solution for exploratory analytics, DataKind and the Bay Area nonprofits TechSoup Global, Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) and San Francisco Health Improvement Partnership (SFHIP) were able to glean valuable new insights that allowed them to further their individual missions using data science.” – Jesika Haria, software engineer at Trifacta

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Gemalto’s charitable initiatives include tree-planting in Mexico

"It was definitely an excellent activity in favor of the environment that enabled us to integrate our blood family with our family at work, strengthened our bonds, and gave us an opportunity to interact with the rest of Gemalto." – Maria de Jesus Gomez Sigrist, an HSE engineer at security vendor Gemalto

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TEKsystems offers tech tutoring, mentorship through nonprofit job training program

"The most rewarding aspect of partnering with Per Scholas is being able to help students take the first step in their professional careers and set them on the road to success. We recently placed almost an entire class of Per Scholas students (15 in total) in jobs on a contract project with a local hospital’s IT department, and it was incredibly gratifying to see them thrive in those roles." – Lindsay Weimer, account manager at IT staffing provider TEKsystems

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Mendix sees the rewards of community involvement, employee bonding

"The best part of giving back is that it not only creates an open and fun environment for colleagues to get to know each other, but it fosters community involvement. Making an immediate impact on our local community is so rewarding and a true bonding experience with those we help and our team." – Kate Danforth, business development team lead at app platform company Mendix

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Evolve IP encourages employees to make charitable work personal

"Evolve IP has made giving back to the communities where we live and work a key tenet of the organization – we call it Evolve Cares … We make it very personal as the majority of the programs are driven directly by our associates and then backed by the organization. For example, if an associate donates to a charity, the company matches it financially. If they are volunteering, we rally around them with volunteers to make a bigger impact. This has had a huge effect on the groups we support as well as our company culture – it’s been very rewarding in just about every way imaginable." – Thomas Gravina, CEO of cloud services company Evolve IP

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Xactly keeps employees engaged by helping others

"We've always had big ambitions for the XactlyOne program, but in the last few years we've really been able to grow those dreams into realities. With more employees and more offices than ever before, Xactly has communities to serve around the globe and the means and motive to take on more service efforts." – Christopher Cabrera, CEO of incentive compensation software provider Xactly Corp.

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Seagate teams with conservation groups to help safeguard assets

"Seagate is proud to partner with groups like World Wildlife Fund, Wildlife Conservation Network and CyArk, whose missions are to preserve and protect our natural and cultural resources. By providing these groups with a range of data storage solutions to help safeguard some of the world’s most precious assets, Seagate can be part of something so much bigger than our products. The data that we help preserve and protect holds the knowledge which ignites change for generations to come." – Michael Busselen, vice president of corporate communications at data storage company Seagate

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Credit: Freescale
Freescale targets STEM education though community work

"There are many great STEM programs and initiatives that are struggling to get off the ground, understaffed and lack the funds to keep running … Our employees are aware of these challenges, [and] they have an opportunity to interact and build meaningful connections with the organizations and children we support on a more personal level. For them, they feel rewarded in seeing young people experience how exciting STEM can be, and they are happy to help unleash that potential." – Rick Morales, director of global community engagement and inclusion at semiconductor company Freescale

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Credit: Konica Minolta
Konica Minolta finds corporate service strengthens culture

"Putting corporate citizenship at the forefront of everything we do and creating opportunities for our employees to contribute are key to fostering a culture that keeps employees engaged and, ultimately, customers happy." – Kevin Kern, senior vice president, Konica Minolta Business Solutions, U.S.A.

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Guidance Software donates scholarships to H.E.R.O. project

"We are honored to partner with PROTECT and extremely pleased to be sharing our technology and training for something as important as helping wounded warriors and protecting children. We look forward to continuing to work with the H.E.R.O.s to boost such a great cause." – Patrick Dennis, president and CEO of digital investigations and endpoint security specialist Guidance Software

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Gazelle's iPad donation program benefits schools

"We started a new initiative through Gazelle for Good to provide iPads to school systems in the cities in which we're located. This spring, we donated 300 iPads to the Boston Public Schools, our home city, and 100 iPads to Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky, where our processing facility is located … We're thrilled to give back to our communities by donating iPads to students in these underserved communities." – Michele Perry, vice president of brand communications at smartphone reseller Gazelle

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West Monroe makes charitable giving a core value

"As a professional services firm, the people who join West Monroe Partners pretty much by nature find fulfillment through giving of themselves to others – be it our clients, their local community and even the world at large. Having formal initiatives like ‘1+1+1’ that harness and direct our collective time, talent and treasure for philanthropic purposes … is what we call ‘doing well by doing good.’ We like to think it’s one of the reasons – and for some probably one of the most important reasons – why talented people like to come here, work here and stay here." – Gary Beu, managing director of people and leadership development at business and technology consulting firm West Monroe Partners

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HGST finds inspiration through charitable work

"Like any company in technology, we believe that technology is changing the way we think and interact with the world around us. That’s why we donated hard drives to [Event Horizon Telescope project] – because it's inspiring to see what humanity can do together to reach the stars. At a personal and individual level though, we also encourage employees to inspire each other and tackle the hardships that they can’t control in their individual lives, but can overcome with each other’s help – because we firmly believe that we are better together." – Mike Cordano, CEO of storage provider HGST

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MakeSpace makes it easy for customers to donate to Goodwill

"We launched a partnership with Goodwill NY/NJ in July of 2014 with the goal of creating an opportunity for MakeSpace users to seamlessly donate their unwanted belongings. The results have been fantastic, with MakeSpace users donating more than 60,000 pounds of goods in less than a year. Due to the success of this partnership, we have since partnered with Goodwill in Chicago, as well as Washington, D.C., and look forward to helping make a positive impact in those communities." – Rahul Gandhi, co-founder and head of operations at physical storage provider MakeSpace

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Twilio.org provides nonprofits with communications technologies

"We're all familiar with the stories of hero developers building massively successful businesses in the age of the cloud. But developers building apps for social good are unsung heroes, and I'm awed by what they build on our platform every day to improve the world. We started Twilio.org in 2013 to formalize our process of providing for nonprofits and currently have over 450 organizations using Twilio to better connect them with the people they serve and the resources they need. These include the American Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and the Peace Corps. We can't wait to see what these organizations build and how their offerings positively impact those in need." – Jeff Lawson, CEO of cloud communications company Twilio