A company staffed with good people that care about one another and their community are, in turn, better teammates, says Todd McKinnon, co-founder of Okta. And here are several ways businesses of any size – from start-ups to global enterprises – can engage with their communities, and benefit as organisations.

When Frederic Kerrest and I first founded Okta, our aim was to develop a solution that would securely connect people to the technologies they needed to do their most significant work, ultimately helping organisations large and small achieve their missions. We also knew early on how important it was for us as an organisation to give back to the community. We believed that a company staffed with good people that care about one another and their community are, in turn, better teammates.

Although many founders agree, I often talk to leaders of early-stage companies with limited time and resources who say it’s difficult to find sustainable ways to give back. They dismiss corporate social responsibility as something they should only formalise once they are more established, when I know from experience that giving back is something they can do from the start.

Here are several ways businesses of any size – from start-ups to global enterprises – can engage with their communities, and benefit as organisations.

  1. Lead by example: In the early days of Okta, we didn't have a formal CSR programme in place, but Frederic and I realised we could lead our team by example. As a Family House board member, I openly talked about my passion for the organisation, which provides a “home away from home” to families of seriously-ill children receiving treatment at the University of California San Francisco Benioff Children's Hospital, and I made it "normal" to take time to volunteer. I made sure to let my team know when I had commitments, tweeted about my involvement and invited employees to fundraising events.In time, employees followed suit, participating in local initiatives to fight poverty, coordinating beach clean-up days, volunteering for education non-profits, and more. Recently, our employees organised a volunteer activity at our customer conference to support Teach for America. Together with customers and partners, they filled 500 backpacks for children starting school in a matter of minutes – a great point of pride for the team.
  1. Work with your partners: Chances are you may have partners who are also interested in giving back to the community, but don't know how to start. Sharing a social responsibility initiative can be a great way to work and do the right thing together, thereby creating and even improving a long-term business relationship. At Okta, we have always had a strong relationship with Box, and have seen it become even more robust through our work together on initiatives like ImpactCloud.Last year, we joined the Box-led coalition of cloud vendors (including DocuSign,, Splunk, Tableau and Twilio) to work with more than 40 global NGOs and improve collaboration and cross cloud innovation to enable humanitarian impact. By combining our resources and technology, we are all able to help emergency responders accelerate cloud adoption and innovation to make a difference in saving people’s lives. As a result, we have deepened our partner business relationship and have seen increasing excitement among our employees over being part of this initiative.
  1. Join an already established non-profit campaign: There are currently millions of non-profits, each one needing different forms of support for their mission to make the world a better place. Giving time, talent and resources to charitable causes are just a few ways to give back. In tandem with initiating a CSR-based partnership, you can also join an already established non-profit campaign. For example, we recently joined the Pledge 1% corporate philanthropy movement, which is dedicated to making the community a key stakeholder in every business by encouraging companies to give 1% of product, revenue and/or corporate time to charitable causes.
  2. Build skills by giving back: Giving back enables volunteers to contribute to worthwhile causes, while also providing them with the opportunity to learn new skills – from teamwork and communication, to project management and event planning – which they can then put to good use in the workplace, and which can help them gain experience in a new field or advance their careers.For example, you may have a financial analyst in your organisation that is put in charge of a fundraising effort for a local hospital. Though they may be comfortable balancing the budget for the event, the skills they learn by building the guest list, building a relationship with the restaurant across the street to donate food and interacting with partner associations helps stretch that analyst's skills.
It can be all too easy for organisations to get wrapped up the world of product launches and corporate announcements and forget about the issues facing the wider community they work in. However, an increasing number of businesses are incorporating volunteering activities into their company culture, and seeing some great benefits.

Incorporating social responsibility is simply the right thing to do. And as added benefit, it builds more engaged, effective teams and helps enhance relationships with customers and partners. Entrepreneurs can lead the way for their organisations to give back – the key is to make sure that doing the right thing is part of their corporate culture and business model.

By Todd McKinnon, CEO and co-founder, Okta

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