The Business Case for Giving Back: Part 1 - Upside Foundation of Canada

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The Business Case for Giving Back: Part 1
October 7, 2016


Why embedding a social mission is one of the smartest things your startup can do

Talent, customers and exposure: three of the most critical things to any startup’s success. When people think about philanthropy and giving back, it’s often about the ‘warm fuzzies’, the intangible benefits, about doing so after they have achieved financial success.

When launching a business, philanthropy is not usually top of mind for an entrepreneur. And if the topic of giving back does come up, it is often postponed as something that you’ll get to later, when you have more time and cash.

But what if instead of being a distraction, embedding a social mission could actually help your business to succeed? If giving back helped you to attract talent, build a strong company culture, stand out in the market, and attract customers who care about you?

It seems to have worked for Google, Salesforce and Waze, three fairlysuccessful companies who donated millions of dollars’ worth of equity to charity.

So how does giving back support your financial success? Giving back helps your company in a few key ways.

Increase employee engagement


“I don’t care who I work for, all I want to do is go to work and earn an income”…said no startup employee ever. Employees (especially millennials) have a fundamental human desire to feel that the way they spend their working life is having a positive impact. Companies that can tap into this need by embedding a higher social purpose into their work have a highly engaged and productive workforce, with employees more deeply committed to the company’s growth and success. Having employees who are proud to work for you and love their work is essential to ensuring high quality of work and a positive and productive company culture.

“Having this as a core value helps us recruit the best talent — people who care about their work care about the world” — Marko Savic, FunnelCake (Upside Foundation member)

Attract loyal customers


Consumers care about the behaviour of the companies they are supporting. Concepts like “Corporate Social Responsibility” and “Voting with your wallet” are no longer a niche concept, but rather are widespread and accepted as the way to do business in today’s world. Ensuring your clients are proud to be associated with you helps you to retain clients and enables you to charge a premium price.

Differentiate your brand

One of the earliest challenges startups face is standing out from competitors. Whether in conversation with potential investors, potential new hires, customers, or the media, being able to share what actions you have taken, that represent what your company stands for, gives you something unique and interesting to talk about. It is also a much more effective and less expensive way to build your brand value than advertising. Startups don’t typically think about giving back at an early stage and taking a stand on this makes you a visionary entrepreneur. One who clearly believes their company will be successful.

“Lots of companies have great products…but corporate culture is where most companies fall down” — Mark Skapinker, Brightspark Ventures (Upside Foundation Co-Founder & Board Member)

In Conclusion

Running a startup is a challenge- with a failure rate of 90%, entrepreneurs are seeking any leg up they can get. When done right, embedding a social mission into your business helps you to achieve your goals of recruiting and retaining top talent, building a strong culture, attracting loyal customers, and making sure your brand is memorable.

In addition to these core benefits, some ways of giving back have additional perks. The Business Case for Giving Back: Part 2 explores how becoming a member of the Upside Foundation supports our members’ success.

 Take the pledge today to ‘share the upside’ and reap the benefits of being a company that cares!

Written by Jen Couldrey, Foundation Manager of the Upside Foundation

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The Upside Foundation of Canada is a registered charity. The Foundation provides an innovative corporate philanthropy platform to help Canadian startups and high-growth companies “Share the Upside”. Since startups’ cash is scarce, as is time, the Foundation makes charitable giving quick, easy and cash-free.

The model is powerful: Earlier-stage and high growth private companies pledge stock options or warrants to the Upside Foundation. When the company has a liquidity event (e.g., IPO, acquisition), the Foundation monetizes the options and donates the proceeds to registered Canadian charities selected by the donors (and approved by the Foundation).

For more information, email


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