Seeking opportunities to give back has always been part of the Buffer DNA. We started the wonderful tradition of profit sharing and charitable contributions at the end of 2017. Since then, we've been in the privileged position to make donations to charitable organizations every year as part of our profit sharing.
We set aside 8 percent of our 2021 profit for profit sharing, we then match 20 percent of that total for our charitable donations. This came to a total of $17,966 for this year’s charitable contribution.
This has always been a unique opportunity for us to come together as a team to celebrate what we've accomplished last year by giving back to charities that have a positive impact in our world - selected by all Buffer teammates together.
How We Decide Which Charities to Support
We go through two stages when determining which charities to support, nominating and voting.
In the first stage, we invite the entire team to nominate their favorite charities based on a set of guidelines provided. We have evolved our selection guidelines over time based on Buffer’s values and vision, the diversity of our global team, and the potential impact of our donation.
Here are the guidelines that we share with the entire Buffer team:
- The charities should focus on causes that are important to Buffer. Traditionally, those have been: 1) Climate Action and 2) Racial Justice.
- The charities should have a strong alignment with Buffer’s values and vision.
- The charities should have a global reach and be of a size where our donation will be meaningful.
The last one can be hard to evaluate so we also shared some examples:
- GiveWell conducts in-depth research to determine how much good a given program accomplishes per dollar spent.
- Giving Green is an evidence-based guide to help donors and volunteers fight climate change.
- Founders Pledge shares research designed to identify the most strategic opportunities for impact.
- Here is a guide on how to choose an effective charity.
- Charity navigator is also a useful resource for researching U.S.-based charities.
In the second stage, we move to voting. Based on the nomination from the team, we put together a shortlist of charities. Every teammate would vote for one charity for each of the two causes, and the two charities that receive the highest votes overall will receive the donation this year. At this stage, we also included a survey to get the team’s feedback on the overall process.
The final results were:
Climate Action: The top choice is Cool Earth
Cool Earth works directly with rainforest communities to halt deforestation. They do this by meeting and learning from the rainforest communities across the world - many of them are indigenous communities that have intimate relationships and immense wisdom. Cool Earth partners with these communities to develop solutions that are unique to each location. In many situations, they support the local communities to develop sustainable incomes so they can be self-sustainable without causing harm to the rain forests.
Racial Justice: The top choice is Village Enterprise
Village Enterprise’s mission is to end extreme poverty by equipping and empowering first-time entrepreneurs in Africa with the resources and skills to start sustainable businesses and savings groups.
At this point, our decision was to split the total of $17,966 between these two wonderful organizations so that each of them will receive $8,983 in a donation.
A last-minute change to our charitable contributions
As we were planning the charitable contribution in February 2022, significant events were developing quickly around us including the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As we learned more about the situation, the tragedy was weighing heavily on many of our minds, and many of our teammates have family or friends in Ukraine.
Conversations about what we can do as individuals start to pop up in our Slack channels, and it was clear that collectively, we wish we could do more about the devastating crisis. As we were approaching the deadline to make a final decision on the charitable contribution, I sought advice from a few teammates and our leadership team on potentially allocating some of our charitable donation budgets towards helping people who would bear the severe consequences of the invasion.
In the end, we decided that we’ll split our charitable contribution into three donations:
- $5,988 will be donated to Village Enterprise to champion racial justice.
- $5,988 will be donated to Cool Earth to tackle the climate crisis.
- $5,988 will be donated to Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund by GlobalGiving to help meet the most urgent and immediate needs of the Ukrainian people.
As a small business, we want to embrace our ability to be flexible in an ever-changing world and to take quick actions that reflect our values and the concern of our team. This decision was met with great support by our teammates and the leadership team, and I’m proud that we had this unique opportunity to support causes that matter the most to us and to help people in need of urgent help.
Learning for next year
Our charitable contribution process has evolved over the years based on identifying causes that are aligned with Buffer’s values and learning from the diverse perspective of our global team.
From the survey on the nomination process this time, we learned that it can feel like a great responsibility to identify effective charities that are aligned with Buffer’s vision and values, especially for teammates who are based outside the U.S. and the U.K. (For legal reasons, Buffer is only able to make a large sum of donations to charities registered in the U.S. or the U.K.)
Based on this feedback, we are thinking about appointing a small group of diverse teammates who can be dedicated to conducting the research required to nominate a shortlist of charities for the entire team to vote on. We hope this can streamline the process while still enabling the entire team to get involved in the process.
We also would love to think more deeply about how we can have the most impact as a small business. Should we donate to the same charities for multiple years, or should we change that every year? When it comes to world events, how do we decide when it feels appropriate to give our support? We will continue to have these discussions within the team.
Over to you
Does your company make charitable contributions on a regular basis? How do you decide which charities are selected each time? We’d love to hear the criteria you put in place or the process you use to involve the team. Send us a tweet!