Goodness Certainly Matters: Inspiration from Benevity’s User Conference Blooming into Action
By Kathy Gu, Program Manager, Living Progress, Hewlett Packard Enterprise & Manager, Corporate Responsibility, Silicon Valley Community Foundation
This post was originally published by Silicon Valley Community Foundation on 05/24/2016
Too often professionals return from conferences with their heads spinning from a hodgepodge of ideas thrown at them (or worse, unenergized from what they heard). User or client conferences can easily become more of a sales-pitch than a worthwhile learning experience. The Benevity User Conference, called “Goodness Matters,” avoided the common pitfalls and succeeded in connecting attendees with each other and with the company, sharing valuable information, and furthermore, sending them off with concrete actions.
They’re not robots!
I attended Goodness Matters back at the end of February as part of my role with Hewlett Packard Enterprise as an onsite SVCF Program Manager. Because HPE was a relatively new client of Benevity’s, the conference was our first opportunity to meet our account manager and other Benevity staff face-to-face. This facet of the conference alone was invaluable. While business is conducted more and more over email, phone calls, and web sharing, face-to-face interactions cannot be replaced for building trust and relationship-building. I was impressed by staff’s earnestness, passion, and thoughtfulness towards their work; traits that can be traced to the CEO, Bryan de Lottinville. I got to know the people behind Benevity, and a business is only as good as its people.
Lisa Conover and me with our Benevity account manager, Sam Swain, who is not a robot.
Connect and hear from the best
The conference’s relatively contained size (<200 attendees) was conducive to meeting other Benevity clients and actively participating in the sessions. Having moved from NYC just a few months prior, I was happy to see some familiar faces from BlackRock and Guggenheim Partners. Penny Zuckerwise, founding Head of CSR at Guggenheim Partners, inspired the audience on the opening day by talking about instilling “personal social responsibility” (PSR) in employees. Recognizing the challenges of building up CSR to be taken seriously at a company, she urged attendees to not overlook the small wins. La Shanda Hurst of Microsoft and Michael Mathison of Nike also showed us their ‘secret ingredients’ for becoming the best-in-class in the field of employee and corporate giving. The common thread is strong corporate culture that drives giving as a value, and giving programs that in turn help to reinforce the culture.
You heard it here first!
In addition to sharing a product roadmap, which is always helpful for a user, Benevity disclosed exciting developments that would not be shared publicly via a press release until months later. Recognizing the importance of international giving, particularly to companies like HPE with global presence, Benevity has partnered with TechSoup to bolster international vetting and allowing it to release its new product, OneWorld. Stocked with 15 languages and the ability to facilitate donations in different currencies, OneWorld can create a more seamless international giving experience for employees. The advantage of hearing this news at the conference was being able to ask detailed questions of staff, specific to your organization, and chat with peers about apparent pros and cons.
Ideas into action at Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Over two months later, HPE is still carrying forward the momentum from Goodness Matters. The conference gave us a great opportunity to hit the pause button. We honed in on ideas that would have the most meaningful impact while still making sense in the context of HPE because every company is different, after all. You can’t just carbon copy what was done at another company—every culture is different.
We moved on actions that could easily be initiated in the short-term while also drawing up a longer-term strategy. In the short-term, it was clear from the conference that international giving is a focal area, and while we were not yet ready to bring on OneWorld, we would work more closely with our international employees to provide support that was specific to their countries. We also looked with fresh eyes at existing opportunities internally. One such opportunity that was uncovered was the Dandelion program at HPE Australia, which partners with a nonprofit, Specialisterne, to attract, train, and retain employees with autism. This highly visible program could now help us spread awareness of HPE Gives while encouraging employees to personally support the cause by donating and getting involved with Specialisterne.
Fiscal year 2017 will give us a chance to reboot the giving program (without the distractions of a massive company separation). We are outlining a broad strategy for the fiscal year, where giving will be more closely tied with HPE’s larger vision of using technology to connect people and better the world and also potentially aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I am thankful for the seeds of inspiration gathered from Goodness Matters and look forward to seeing what blooms at HPE in the coming months.
Kathy consults on a portfolio of Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s corporate clients, with a focus on Hewlett Packard Enterprise through an onsite program manager role. Kathy supports the initiatives of the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Foundation.