How Not to be a CyberscroogeÜ the Churchill Club meeting of 4 December 1997 by Francesca Gutierrez There was a bit of a brouhaha at the Churchill Club’s meeting on December 4, 1997. Despite the successes of the giving programs highlighted that evening, Network Associates’ Harry Saal says, “It’s too soon to change our name from Cyberstingy to Cybergenerous.” Citing a Stanford University study by Prof. Kirk Hansen, Saal complained Silicon Valley companies’ reinvestment in the community is well below national averages. Worse, some report inflated values for donations of goods or services. Time to call out the Feds to help standardize reporting and verify which companies are really scrooges in Mother Teresa’s clothing? Cybergrinches have yet to realize the many benefits to corporations who live up to their social obligations. CEOs Ramn Nuez, Jim Carreker and Eric Benhamou from IKOS, Aspect, and 3COM explained how and why giving programs are a win/win proposition. Improved morale, better employee retention, closer client relationships, and a positive corporate image are all results of effective programs. The panel debunked the most popular corporate giving weasel tactics: Excuse #1: “Employees aren’t motivated to get involved.” Answer: Make sure the charities you choose reflect employee values. Volunteerism cannot be sustained if worthy causes are mandated from above. At IKOS, one percent of pre-tax profits are distributed “independently of management bias.” Surveys showed many IKOS employees already had the will, all they needed to make an impact were a forum and funds. Employees meet regularly to define goals, develop application processes, and grant awards. Excuse #2: “We’re just a start-up / we don’t have any profits.” Answer: Aspect’s mission of creating value for the community, as well as investors, is written into its charter. “It’s important to foster the expectation [of giving] from Day One,” says Jim Carreker. Most start-ups cannot justify spending venture capital on anything other than R&D; but they can recycle, give time off for volunteering, include community commitment in employment evaluations, give service awards, and encourage managers to lead by example. With revenues more than $300 million and operations in several countries, Aspect’s giving program is a little more sophisticated now. Profits have not been immune to the volatility of the high tech market place. Using a sliding scale, a higher percentage of profits are set aside during booms and placed in endowment for distribution when times are tough. The stability of Aspect’s corporate giving program has enhanced its “built to last” reputation. Excuse #3: “We’re a global concern_ US notions of charity don’t travel.” Answer: Leverage your corporation’s area of expertise to create a measurable impact in the communities in which your employees live. “[3COM] owes more to the community than jobs and taxes,” said Eric Benhamou. 3COM’s slickly presented program focuses on where the company can make a life-long measurable difference. It uses its employees’ skills in networking to deliver more value to the educational projects it supports with the aim of reaping long-term benefits for the company. Silicon Valley companies may not be able to solve all the world’s problems. However, given the high educational levels, skyrocketing per capita income and sheer talent concentrated in the Bay Area, there is certainly room for improvement. © Copyright 1997 Francesca Gutierrez This program generously supported by Deloitte & Touche LLP and Network General Corp.
Eric Benhamou, Chairman, President & CEO, 3Com Corporation James Carreker, Chairman & CEO, Aspect Telecommunications Ramon Nunez, President & CEO, IKOS Systems, Inc. Harry Saal, Entrepreneur, Founder, Network General Corp. Dori Ives, Principal, Business & Community Services