How Businesses Can Give Back, Year-Round

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Palo Alto Software Day of Giving

Palo Alto Software employees participate in United Way’s Day of Caring.

The holiday season is a great time for businesses to think about how they can give back and make a difference in the wider community. But don’t look at it as just a once a year project.

This year, Palo Alto Software is launching #LivePlanGives. Starting on Giving Tuesday, November 28, 2017, $10 from every new LivePlan annual package will fund microloans for entrepreneurs around the world who are working to end the cycle of poverty for themselves and their communities.  

We have a passion for helping people succeed in business. Year-round, we’re committed to giving back and supporting our local and global community through donations, volunteer service, and mentorship. We believe in running a mission-driven company, and we hire employees that are passionate about the mission of helping people succeed. For our company, giving back is an essential piece of our company culture, and builds a common goal we can all get behind.

Supporting charity is not just about giving to the charities, but also about the kind of business you want to run, and how you want to affect your employee culture and morale. If you’re starting to think about how to get your business involved in giving back, here are a few ideas.

Start local

We’re based in Eugene, OR, and we support our local community, focusing the majority of our efforts on education, entrepreneurship, and community building. We strive to make a difference in the work we do, both for our company and for our community.

Because we want to be a positive presence in our local community, it makes sense for us to seek out local causes that align with our mission.

Think national and global

We have consistently donated to global programs that help entrepreneurs get started, get loans, and get their businesses up and running. For example, we donate time, training, and products to Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) all over the USA, and have for over 25 years. Small businesses are the power that runs the U.S. economy, and we believe in helping them get started through supporting SBDCs, Women’s Business Centers, and Business Innovation Centers throughout the U.S.

Our most recent donation was to the local Houston SBDC where we donated product and support to help small businesses affected by hurricane Harvey. Our desire to empower entrepreneurs around the world is also why decided to start offering microloans to small businesses around the world through this year. It makes sense for us to support both international and local initiatives, because our customers reflect that same diversity. Especially if you’re serving national or international customers, think about how your company can make a difference worldwide.

For our team, the work is not just about making great products and selling them at a fair price, but also believing in what we do every day.

We come to work so that we can help people achieve their dreams. We love that we can be a part of making their dreams a reality through what we do every day at Palo Alto Software. For us, going to work is about more than just the work—it’s about truly helping people start their businesses, run them with the right tools, and grow them to achieve all their success.  

Entrepreneurs struggle every day to move their businesses forward. It’s a tough job with many long days and lots of stress. We know how hard it is and we strive to help small businesses by providing the best tools and business education. When I took over the business with my husband in 2007, we were faced with the challenge of transitioning to new technology and a new business model in the middle of the greatest recession since 1920. It was hard, and we struggled to grow our business in one of the hardest business climates ever.

We know how hard it is—we’ve been there.

Palo Alto Software Day of Caring

More than dollars: Give time

If your business is in its early stages and you don’t feel like you can make much of a financial contribution, think about giving your time. At Palo Alto Software, we want to give employees a chance to volunteer with an organization that resonates with them. Every employee at Palo Alto Software has one half day per month on company time to volunteer in the community.

Employees have used this time to mentor kids, work at food banks, volunteer at their churches, help out at their kids’ schools, help in community gardens, support sports for kids in communities in need, support clean rivers and clean water projects, and volunteer at local nature conservancies, just to name a few.

Our employees are our biggest asset, and we love that we can support them and our community in this simple, easy way. Over the last five years, our volunteer efforts in the community have totaled almost 10,000 hours. It’s something we are proud of, and something any business can do. Your community will be happy, your employees will be happy, and you will be able to give back in a way that doesn’t require you to give cash (which might be harder as you are growing).  

We also volunteer together as a company. It’s a great way for our team to spend time together outside of our regular routine, and it’s great to be able to work together to accomplish a bigger volunteering project. If you’re not sure where to start, think about connecting with your local United Way. For the last four years, we have participated in United Way’s Day of Caring, sending almost 100 employees over the years to help out at nonprofits in our community.

A hand up, not a hand out: Education is key

The number of worthy charitable causes can feel overwhelming at first. We think that programs that support education are a common denominator. As a company that thrives because of our smart, educated, tech-savvy employees, we want to help other people have opportunities to access tech and education through K-12 programs and STEM programs.

For that reason, we have supported the Stand for Children Beat the Odds scholarship for five years in a row. Being able to support kids who work hard for their college dreams and have beat the odds is exactly why we work so hard at Palo Alto Software.

We have also mentored and sponsored South Eugene High School’s Robotics Team, brought in high school interns and paired them with employees to mentor and teach them, and participated in a groundbreaking high school CTE program in Lane County called Elevate Lane County. CTE programs in Lane County (where Palo Alto Software is located) have shown to improve graduation rates for kids by 15 percent. We love getting behind programs that have proven results and truly improve the lives of the students we work with. We also donate money to the Eugene Education Foundation, various elementary and middle schools throughout Eugene, Oregon, and support our public schools through extensive volunteering.

We know that education is the key to helping all communities all over the world rise and support themselves. Entrepreneurs who have had good access to education will have better tools to start and run their businesses and will be better prepared to succeed wherever they are.

The number of organizations that our company and our employees have helped is something I am very proud of. It feels natural to make sure that we participate in our community and share our knowledge and resources as we can.

It is for that reason that I am thrilled to get behind our #LivePlanGives initiative with, and help increase access to microloans for entrepreneurs around the world as they work to end the cycle of poverty for themselves and their communities.

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Sabrina Parsons
Sabrina Parsons
Sabrina has served as CEO of Palo Alto Software since 2007. She and her husband, Noah, founded a UK software distribution company in 2001 that was acquired by Palo Alto Software in 2002. Sabrina is a successful Internet expert, having served as Director of Online Marketing at Commtouch, Senior Producer at Epinions, and founder of her own Web consulting company, Lighting Out.
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