Amy Lesnick is looking for the next Uber—to commit 1% of its equity, product, profit, or time to charity. As the CEO of the nonprofit Pledge 1%, Lesnick thinks like an angel investor, identifying promising startups. But rather than trying to buy a piece of the action, she encourages young brands to nurture a culture of giving and to maximize the potential for philanthropic contributions as they scale.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff pioneered what he calls an integrated philanthropic model in his company’s early days, giving away equity and goods, and enabling 1.5 million volunteer hours from employees. After evangelizing for others to follow his model, Benioff spun off the initiative three years ago as Pledge 1%. In 2016, the nonprofit added 700 pledges (more than double its 2015 tally, for a total of more than 1,300 companies), including commitments from Harry’s and General Assembly. Australian software juggernaut Atlassian alone has donated more than $6.5 million to education-focused charities.
For Lesnick, the growth is a step toward her ultimate goal: irrelevancy. “In 15 years, we might not even exist,” she says. “[Early-stage philanthropy] will be as common as setting aside equity for future employees.”