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10 cool ways tech companies give it up for charity

Ann Bednarz | Dec. 8, 2015
The philanthropic landscape is vast, and finding the right charitable fit for a company takes time.

At the same time, companies have to be realistic about what they can support. Level 3 Communications distributes its corporate grant monies to recipients that generally fall into a few distinct areas, including education, serving the underprivileged, and environmental/sustainability causes. Through its nonprofit foundation, Level 3 supports the same areas plus animal welfare, arts and culture, and health and disease.

"Every new initiative or new idea that comes about, you have to make sure that it's going to have value and be meaningful for a broad population, not just for the individual employee who might bring the idea to you,” says Laurinda Pang, EVP and chief administrative officer at Level 3.

Set aside one day

It’s amazing how big a difference a single, coordinated day of service can make.

One day a year for the past eight years, product design company ZURB puts all of its client projects on hold and works 24 hours straight to craft an entire marketing campaign for one lucky nonprofit. The event, called ZURB Wired, gets everyone in the company involved. Over the 24-hour marathon, employees create a new website, t-shirts, posters, postcards, banners, digital campaigns, videos and more. This year, the beneficiary was Downtown Streets Team, a transitional program that prepares homeless members for permanent employment and housing.

“It was fantastic to work with such a passionate team and for such a worthy cause. Downtown Streets Team was really engaged throughout the whole 24 hours, and knowing how important this is to them kept us all going strong to the finish,” says John Leenane, a partner at ZURB.

The Nerdery does something similar. The software design and development company’s Nerdery Overnight Website Challenge, begun in 2008, provides web design and development services to nonprofits. The Nerdery rallies staff and fellow web pros throughout the community to spend 24 hours – in a row – helping nonprofits create websites, all pro bono. This year, the 24-hour challenge happened simultaneously in Chicago, Kansas City and Minneapolis, where volunteers formed teams to provide everything from front-end and back-end development to project management, UX design and copywriting.

“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,” says Mark Malmberg, communication director at The Nerdery.

Make it easy for employees to participate

It doesn’t have to be a marathon, of course; the key is getting something on the calendar.

Dimension Data schedules an annual community service day as part of its Heads, Hearts and Hands Program. This year, employees focused on school maintenance projects, including painting, building and other upkeep, at 11 schools around the country.


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