Pi Day, Citizen Philanthropy and the Value of Choice

By Betsy Sutter
Mar 12, 2021 3:35 PM ET

Two attributes of VMware’s culture truly differentiate us as a company: innovation and choice. We are simultaneously committed to both. And nowhere is this more apparent than in our strategic approach to giving back.

Pi Day is a great example. As its popularity grew in our community, we baked this trending mathematical-constant celebration day into our philanthropic programs. Annually on March 14, we encourage our people to pay tribute by supporting the nonprofits near and dear to them. There are infinite possibilities in how they do this: 3.14 Service Learning hours, 3.14 in matching gift donations and more.

Philanthropy isn’t new, but it’s been transforming. In the same way our business drives digital transformation journeys, we’ve been on a decade-long path to positively evolve philanthropy through wider employee engagement. Our goal is Citizen Philanthropy that empowers everyone to be active, engaged citizens in our communities.

Opportunity Is Everywhere

Most companies focus their giving on a particular issue of importance to executives alongside opportunities to volunteer and match charity contributions—leading top down. At VMware, we’ve set our corporate giving initiatives apart with a company-wide emphasis on choice—leading community up.

We’re particularly invested in Service Learning. This centers on learning through experience and fosters a service mindset across our global teams. That’s in addition to amplifying employee time, talent and resource contributions to the nonprofits they choose through a platform of global programs.

We’ve been intentional to not promote specific nonprofits as a company. That’s because they may not be the causes or activities most meaningful to our people. Our choice approach is much more individually empowering and satisfying, creating authentic connections between VMware people and the nonprofit, cause or individuals they choose to serve maybe once, but more likely through some form of ongoing engagement.

Best of all, not choosing for others has led people of different backgrounds and cultures to work with communities they might not otherwise have encountered, learning and growing in new settings. That’s led to greater diversity in giving back than even we imagined—14,000 nonprofits last year alone.  

A Year Like No Other

When and where our people see an urgent need, they take action to do something about it. Spending time in Service Learning. Making monetary contributions. Boosting awareness. Writing notes of gratitude.

Despite challenges in 2020 worldwide, some personal Citizen Philanthropy journeys gained momentum and others got started.

One of our employees dove more deeply into Service Learning:

  • Supporting vulnerable neighbors by picking up groceries and prescriptions.
  • Mentoring youth who could not participate in traditional internships.
  • Locally picking up litter.

And that investment led to this incredibly powerful insight: “Doing these things with my Service Learning time, I have not found myself brooding over what I have lost or what I can’t do but what I have gained and the new people I’ve met for which I am full of gratitude.”

All of us have the power to effect change in the world in ways that matter to each of us. At VMware, we harness that power by being a partner and amplifier. We provide equal access to our charitable resources and a platform of choice and flexibility to foster a culture of service.

If your organization is engaged in Citizen Philanthropy or you have an interest in joining a community that values supporting what matters to you, please get in touch.

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