This week, we wrapped up the first season of our Future of Work, Now podcast by speaking with Ebony Beckwith.

As the Chief Philanthropy Officer and CEO of the Salesforce Foundation, Ebony oversees a global team of people leading Salesforce’s efforts to give back.

On the podcast, Ebony calls herself an “accidental philanthropist”, but says she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I love getting involved in these hyper-relevant company issues, like our disaster relief effort, our COVID-19 response, and most recently our Racial Equality and Justice Task Force. I say this all the time, but I truly believe that I have the best job ever.”

What Ebony loves about the role, she says, is the ability to make an immediate impact. She talks to our podcast host Asha Popatlal about how others can do the same.


When you talk about business as a platform for change, what do you mean?

At Salesforce, we know business is the greatest platform for change. We’ve truly believed this since our founding. It means we want to use our platform, our resources, and everything we have at our disposal to improve the state of the world.

It is not enough to just focus on the bottom line. We know that when we provide value to all our stakeholders — and not just shareholders— everyone benefits. That means our customers, our partners, our employees, our community, and our planet.


Has the pandemic changed or accelerated your community projects?

Yes and no. We were already working in underserved communities, but when COVID-19 hit we felt we needed to do more. In the short term, we reached out to all of our grantees and simply asked the question, “What do you need?”. They let us know and not only were we able to provide resources, but we were able to rally other corporations and nonprofits and work together to fill the gaps.

We also set up the Racial Equality and Justice Task Force in the middle of the pandemic. This was focused on taking urgent action against the racism, violence, and hate that was happening in the US and globally.

What’s been really cool is that COVID-19 gave us the ability to revisit our strategy and verify if we were doing the right things and funding in the right areas. It also enabled us to create relationships and partnerships that were so much deeper. I think the silver lining of COVID-19 is that relationships have been deepened, not just in business, but personally.


You have been working in philanthropy for many years...does it feel more special at this time because the need is so much more?

Absolutely. What I love about this role is that I am able to see my immediate impact day after day.

The urgency of the time we are in right now and just seeing so many people need so much has been an equaliser and I don’t think we will go back to normal. 

What has been really nice is to see people rally together. Employees, partners, and members of the community want to be involved like never before. The awareness of the need has heightened people's compassion and it has been amazing to see.


How can companies at the start of this journey build a culture of compassion?

My suggestion is to start with employee time. That is an easy way to get started as there are a lot of people who volunteer their time already. A lot of people spend weekends at food kitchens or helping at nonprofits like scouts for their kids. Make an official program around that and give employees permission to take time away from their jobs to volunteer. It might be one hour or twenty hours; choose whatever is right for your company.

I’d also like to highlight organisations like Pledge 1%. They provide free tools and resources to create structured giving back programs, so no matter the size of your company you can create measurable impact.


Final question: should every company have a chief philanthropy officer?

I think creating impact is everyone's job. That said, I think creating a role and adding dedicated resources signals that it is a priority to people, internally and externally. It also creates a really awesome ripple effect as people will want to work at your company because they can see the dedication to giving back. I think that is a strategic corporate differentiator, especially in times like now.


Listen to the full podcast to hear more about Ebony’s career journey and how she made the leap from computer science to corporate philanthropy. Access the podcast on demand at our podcasts page, Spotify, and iTunes. You can also listen over at the Singapore Community Radio Twitch page, Facebook page, and website

Our next episode will air at 1:00 p.m. SGT Friday, January 15 and will be the first episode of season two. Season two focuses on the All-Digital, Work From Anywhere World. Tune in to hear Vala Afshar, Chief Digital Evangelist, Salesforce discuss how the pandemic has changed the way we work and collaborate. 

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