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Most Innovative Meetings 2014: #2 Dreamforce

The world’s largest software conference, hosted by the global cloud computing company Salesforce, is also setting new, lofty standards for corporate social responsibility.

By Mitra Sorrells December 9, 2014, 4:30 AM EST

Organizers asked every attendee to bring a food item or make a monetary donation as part of an initiative to donate one million meals to fight hunger around the world.

Photo: Jakub Mosur Photography

Philanthropy has been an integral part of the culture at Salesforce since the company’s founding in 1999. Through the Salesforce Foundation, it donates one percent of its equity, one percent of its employees’ time, and one percent of its products to charity. The most visible activities take place at Dreamforce, the company’s annual conference at the Moscone Center in San Francisco for customers, partners, press, and analysts. The event attracts nearly 150,000 attendees and five million online viewers, making it the world’s largest software conference.

“Marc [Benioff, Salesforce C.E.O.] has infused giving back and service into the DNA of what we do,” said Brian Komar, the foundation’s vice president of marketing and outreach. “What we have seen consistently is when we provide these opportunities for others to give back, they are really excited about it and really see it as a value add.”

Like Dreamforce itself, the charitable component is gigantic: for the most recent conference in October, the company set a goal of collecting one million meals to combat hunger. Through the event’s website, email communications, blog posts, mobile app, and on-site signage, all attendees were encouraged to bring a canned food item with them or make a monetary donation online. Organizers also engaged local partners, such as the conference’s four Marriott hotels, which placed collection bins in their lobbies and encouraged employees to donate. At the end of the four-day event, organizers announced three million meals would be donated—triple the goal—thanks to matching grants from Benioff and speaker Tony Robbins.

The Million Meals campaign was just one of Dreamforce’s charitable components. Attendees also packed meals for Stop Hunger Now, backpacks for Project Night Night, and tote bags for Talk Read Sing. The event’s concert also raised an estimated $9 million for UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals.

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