Salesforce celebrates birthday with fundraiser party in San Francisco

The CEO of Salesforce made philanthropy a key part of his company's 15th anniversary celebration in San Francisco on Friday.
March 13, 2014 4:07:43 PM PDT
Salesforce employees took over San Francisco's Justin Herman Plaza Friday to celebrate the company's 15th anniversary.

The company's founder Marc Benioff also used the occasion to make a major announcement. He's trying to raise $100 million for people in poverty. And so far, he's persuaded a handful of companies to sign on.

The CEO made philanthropy a key part of his company's 15th anniversary celebration. Employees of the cloud computing company put together 15,000 meals for Stop Hunger Now and donated 15,000 pounds of canned and packaged food for the San Francisco Food Bank.

"You know, you can work for a lot of different companies, but this really has my heart," Salesforce employee Gillian Madill said. "And this is what keeps me here and really makes me happy."

Benioff now wants other companies to follow his lead, to make giving a key part of their philosophy.

He announced the formation of SF Gives, an initiative to raise $100 million for anti-poverty programs in the Bay Area.

So far a dozen tech companies, including Zinga, LinkedIn, and Google are onboard. And so is San Francisco-based IfOnly. The company, which sells experiences with famous people, has pledged $500,000.

"We want people who live here to be able to have a high quality lifestyle," IfOnly founder and CEO Trevor Traina said. "It's good for our employees, it's good for the community, and what's good for my team is good for IfOnly."

Benioff has become one of San Francisco's leading philanthropists, having donated $100 million for the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

But persuading other tech leaders to give hasn't been easy. Benioff offered his theory.

"When they went to business school, that they believed that the business of business is business," he said. "That's what Milton Friedman said, that's what they believe the fundamentals of business are and we want to show them how they can create a better business and a better society by integrating philanthropy into their culture."

It's a tough task, but it is clear Benioff is up to the challenge.

Salesforce's birthday party was open to the public. People were encouraged to come to Justin Herman Plaza to volunteer or to donate canned food.

"This is open for the community, it's open for the public," said Salesforce Chief Marketing Officer Lynn Vojvodich. "We want to say thank you San Francisco for 15 amazing years. We were founded here 15 years ago and now we are San Francisco's largest tech employer. So thank you. Thank you for everything you do. And thank you for letting us be a part of this amazing community."

Grammy nominated artist Janelle Monae was also part of the celebration, putting on a energetic, lunch time performance.

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