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Doer Series: Jeremy Brown, Startups Give Back

At Slide 32, we are passionate about highlighting people, businesses and organizations who are moving beyond talking about making a change and are actually doing it. That’s why we wanted to start our “Doers” series -- interviews with some of our favorite changemakers.

To start this series off we recently had a chance to connect with Jeremy Brown, the founder of Startups Give Back, an organization dedicated to making philanthropy a top priority for startups around the world instead of an afterthought. They do this by facilitating volunteering events as corporate team-building events opportunities.

In your own words can you give us a summary of what Startups Give Back is?

Startups Give Back is on a mission to make philanthropy a top priority for companies rather than something they get to once they go public or have a big payday.

We make this happen in a variety of ways. One of which is our main offering: volunteering events. We organize volunteering events where companies work together to help nonprofits in their communities. Through a blend of volunteering and networking, volunteers get an opportunity to make a difference and network with other professionals at the same time.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background? I remember you mentioning that you work in content marketing, how did you get into that?

Business, entrepreneurship, marketing, and social impact weren't my first loves.

Growing up, professional baseball was what I wanted to do with my life. I ate baseball. I slept baseball. I dreamt baseball.

Long story short, despite success through college and the accolades that came with this, professional baseball wasn’t in my future. So, I had to find something else to put my energy into. Luckily, I found that something my senior year of college: marketing.

I’ve spent my entire career as a marketer in the tech industry. I’ve worked at fast growing Series A/B startups and large, established enterprises.

Why content marketing? I’m a storyteller at heart. To me storytelling is the best form of marketing – it’s authentic, engaging, and memorable. Naturally, I gravitated towards content marketing as it enabled me to wear that storyteller hat.

I understand that you got the idea for SGB after working at a startup that integrated volunteering into their company culture. What inspired you to spread philanthropy and service to other startups?

Career experiences.

As you mentioned, the idea for Startups Give Back came during my time working at an early-stage startup. However, the idea wouldn’t have come to fruition if I didn’t have certain experiences at the company before this.

The company I was at prior to joining the startup was large with plenty of resources: money and people. However, not one time did we give back. No donations. No volunteering. Nothing.

It wasn’t something that was encouraged – not to say that it was discouraged.

When I left that company and eventually joined the startup, the very first week on the job we volunteered as a team (We did this for every new group of employees).

I quickly realized why we were volunteering:

  1. Giving back is the right thing to do – especially as a company

  2. Volunteering is an amazing team-building activity

When I had a moment to reflect, it didn’t sit well with me that a small startup with limited resources was able to do more for the community than my previous company that had plenty of resources. If anything the larger company should’ve contributed more.

That’s when I decided to figure out a way to get startups more involved in their communities.

Why startups? Simple. If I can help early-stage startups adopt a philanthropic mindset, the thought is that their efforts will expand as they grow as companies. I basically wanted to create more Salesforce-like companies as they adopted a philanthropic mindset pretty much on day one.

That’s when Startups Give Back was born.

Do you still have a day job? How do you manage the demands of SGB with the demands of your other career?

Yes, I still have a day job.

How do I manage the demands of Startups Give Back and a day job? Time management. There are no secrets here. It just takes effort, planning ahead, and using the full 24 hours you’re given in a day.

You’d be surprised how much time you really have when you cut out the stuff that’s not adding much value to your life.

Ok, I lied. There’s one secret…

You know the old saying “If you do something you love it never feels like work?” Well, I can absolutely say that this statement is true. I’m in a fortunate position to be pursuing two passions: marketing and making a difference. It literally doesn’t feel like I have a “job.” Instead, it feels more like an me, I’ve had jobs I HATED. The feeling is so much different.

It’s infinitely easier to juggle multiple things when you’re passionate about the things you’re juggling.

I understand that SGB started out as service days for smaller companies, but has grown to become an enterprise solution for team building activities, as well as a lecture/panel event series. Ultimately, what is your vision for the future of SGB?

I’m building an empire of good.

Startups Give Back is just the first pillar, albeit a very important pillar, of the grand vision. Since founding Startups Give Back, we’ve also launched several other brands focused on solving specific problems at the intersection of for-profit and nonprofit.

For example, Changemaker Forum was started in 2017 to be a forum for social entrepreneurs to share the problems they believe are worth solving in the world – think TED conference but for social entrepreneurship. This came about when I kept hearing how difficult it was for social entrepreneurs to build awareness.

We’ve organized several meetups where social entrepreneurs talk about the problem (s) their organizations are solving. This has been incredibly inspiring and has helped bring visibility to issues in the world that some people might not be aware of.

Social Impact Chat is another brand in the Startups Give Back universe. It’s an invite-only Slack community for social impact professionals and people interested in breaking into the profession. So far we have over 140 social impact professionals from companies like Salesforce, Lyft, and DocuSign in the community that are actively connecting with each other and sharing resources.

Ultimately, my vision for the future of Startups Give Back is to evolve into a global organization that’s focused on three things:

  • Making philanthropy a top priority for companies across the globe

  • Helping social entrepreneurs accelerate their impact

  • Helping passionate changemakers find opportunities to join companies looking to make an impact

What advice do you have for someone working at a bigger organization that doesn’t offer volunteer opportunities to their employees but wants their company to give back?

Find an executive on your team that believes companies fundamentally have a responsibility to give back. Executive buy-in is extremely important if you’re trying to get something like a volunteering program off the ground.

If you don’t have access to an executive like that then you’re going to have to do a bit of convincing. Essentially, this will require you to pitch your idea to the executive team like a startup. You’ll have to make the case by showing the value of volunteering.

If you get push back, do an audit of how much your company (or department) spends on happy hours and all the other team-building activities. Then compare the results to what it would cost if you incorporated volunteering.

Spoiler alert: volunteering typically costs nothing to very little (transportation and the occasional donation are the only real costs).

Basically, by incorporating volunteering in your team-building efforts you end up saving a ton of money (talk about eye opening for executives). Plus, you’re still accomplishing the team-building goal but in a much more meaningful way.

Anything else you want us to plug?

Be on the lookout for a lot more from Startups Give Back soon – I’m serious when I say that I’m building an empire of good!

If you want to find out more about Jeremy or Startups Give Back, you visit their website or give them a follow on Instagram.


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