On Election Day, we all have the opportunity to reflect on our own civic duties — but today those duties extend beyond the individual. According to our report, “The Impact of Equality and Values Driven Business,” 80% of employees believe companies have a responsibility to look beyond profit to make a positive impact on society. In response to this growing demand for companies to do good — along with doing well — more and more of them are now offering employees resources and opportunities to make a difference.

To investigate what employees think of their companies’ position on issues of philanthropy, equality, and sustainability, the Salesforce Research team surveyed over 500 randomly selected Dreamforce attendees to get their perspectives. A concurrent focus group gave added insights across industries and job levels.

Here’s what we learned:


Insight #1: There’s a mismatch between employee expectations and company resources

While 56% of respondents feel that companies have a responsibility to improve the state of the world, only 34% said their company does a good job of giving back. Part the disconnect between employee expectations and company performance is lack of resources: only 32% of employees say their company gives them resources to give back, such as matching donations or support in identifying causes they care about. And as we all know, the most precious resource is time, which echoes the sentiment of one Director of Customer Operations that we spoke with: “I feel like our company struggles because we have so many people in manufacturing or call centers. We can't let them take a half day or take two hours [to volunteer]. So no one else does anything because it's not fair if we [only] give corporate employees volunteer time.”

Our analysis shows that different industries place more value in giving employees the opportunity to give back. Financial services employees, for example, are 4.4x more likely than manufacturing employees to say their company does this well and 1.7x more likely to say their company does a good job at giving back overall.


Insight #2: It all starts with culture

It’s not enough to roll out a corporate philanthropy program. A culture of giving back needs to have buy-in and support from the very top levels of leadership. Members of our focus group noted that even with the availability of time off for volunteering, unspoken discouragement to take time away from work to give back puts the brakes on their philanthropic pursuits. A Director of CRM told us: “I get eight hours of volunteer time [per year] but [management] isn’t encouraging of it. It's more like, ‘oh, she was off.’ [I feel like] if I volunteered, somebody else is going to be mad at me for not being at work.”


Insight #3: Doing good reaches beyond — and within — a company’s walls

Companies who foster both the right culture — and provide the right resources — do more than bring good to their communities. They also make happier employees. We interviewed a Strategy Manager who experienced how volunteering spread throughout their company. “We partnered with a non-profit and had 100% of our staff taking care of kids, moving people into homes, and donating. After that, [volunteerism] just exploded across the company. It had far-reaching impacts on people...I really think that it's got to come from the top down.”

While many companies may struggle to instill a philanthropic mindset, the Dreamforce attendees we spoke with made it clear that it all starts with culture. A good first step is to take a step back and ask if good corporate citizenship — such as volunteerism and giving back — is incorporated  company values not just nominally, but in practice. By leading by example,management can show employees that it’s not only okay to take time away from work to volunteer, but also celebrated.

This article is part of a series exploring how real business professionals feel about corporate values. Read our recent article, “New Research Shows Sustainability is a ‘Moral Must’ For Business.”