Benioff on stage: Image credit © 2023 SalesforceAs Dreamforce commenced, Salesforce announced it would give another $20 million to public schools across the United States. It will also gift grants to several non-profits in the US, France, Germany, and the UK focused on training students for future careers.

The donations will help to fund skills relevant to technology jobs, including skills for AI, that are becoming increasingly important.

Marc Benioff - Salesforce CEO Source Salesforce (Source Salesforce)
Marc Benioff – Salesforce CEO Source Salesforce

Marc Benioff, co-founder and CEO, confirmed the donations during his keynote and pleaded to the audience to follow the example of Salesforce. He noted, “We love to do that here at Salesforce. That is hundreds of millions of dollars for our public schools, about $150 million to our San Francisco and Oakland public schools.”

This was a more measured appeal than in previous years, but he highlighted the plight of schools with a personal anecdote.

Benioff added, “Public schools need all of our attention. They have had a really difficult decade. I went to public school. I went down my street to my middle school and knocked on the door.”

The principal answered the door, and Benioff asked what he could do. The principal walked him around the school and showed him the playground, which hadn’t been updated since his mother attended the same school. Benioff donated the funds to update the playground and many more improvements.

Benioff added, “I tell this story to inspire you so you go out and work with your public schools to see what you can do to make your schools better. This is our moment where we think about things like the homeless, public schools or what is going on in our local cities.

“When we walk down the street, we can look at them and go by, or we can look at them and say there is the grace of God. I could take this on board and love thy neighbour as thyself. This is an opportunity to do it. I love doing it in my business, and I hope all of you adopt these models. This is an incredible moment for all of us.”

Big focus on tech and AI

The arrival of generative AI is changing the classroom environment. It also means that students need to better understand and be prepared for working with AI in the future. The funding will help build courses for students around the new skills required for education and emerging jobs.

Suzanne DiBianca, EVP and Chief Impact Officer, Salesforce, commented, “Companies and schools alike are racing to understand what AI means for young people – whether it be how it’s impacting homework assignments today to how to train students for the jobs of tomorrow. This funding will help educators and workforce development organizations prepare the next generations for success now and into the future.”

Salesforce also revealed that it would kick off the initiatives by hosting a “Back to School” celebration at George Washington High School in San Francisco. Salesforce is joining high school students and faculty in San Francisco to mark the occasion.

As part of the announcement, Salesforce will today host education nonprofit aiEDU, which will run a hands-on AI workshop for students. After the workshop, Salesforce leaders will host a roundtable on AI.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed commented, “As AI continues to transform our schools, workplaces, and society, education has never been more critical. I’m proud of our city’s long-standing commitment to the jobs of the future and thankful for Salesforce’s investment to ensure the next generation is set up for success.”

Matt Wayne, Ed.D, San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent, said, “Salesforce has been an incredible partner to SFUSD for 11 years. Their contributions to San Francisco schools have been instrumental in helping give our students access to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses and preparing them for the jobs of the future. We are grateful to Salesforce for their ongoing commitment to the district and the students of San Francisco.”

Salesforce Trailblazing on support for education

Salesforce has been a trailblazer in supporting education in the US and internationally. It has donated over $233 million in support of education and workforce development worldwide since 2012.

Half of this year’s investment will go to San Francisco and Oakland schools and nonprofits, where Salesforce has its headquarters and Benioff grew up. The donations are used to further technology education. It is being used to expand its computer science curriculum within the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD).

At least half of its 50,000 students have taken at least one computer science course, and there has been a 3x increase in computer science enrollment for Black, Latinx, and Native American/Indigenous students. In Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), Salesforce funding helped retain high-performing, diverse teachers, resulting in the lowest staff vacancy rate Oakland middle schools have had in four years.

The grants allocated specifically for schools this year total $14 million and will be distributed to San Francisco, Oakland, New York City, Chicago, and Indianapolis districts.

Grantees include:

  • San Francisco Unified School District: Supports the district’s efforts to bring career-focused learning to high schools and continues to support improving the middle school experience for students and educators.
  • Oakland Unified School District: Advances the transformation of middle schools through computer science, math, and educator support and wraparound services for newcomer students.
  • New York City Public Schools: Builds new high school pathway programs to prepare students for rewarding careers and long-term economic security.
  • Chicago Public Schools: Improves students’ readiness for postsecondary education with transitional classes, advanced pathway options, and career-connected learning and creates a pipeline of school leaders.
  • Indianapolis Public Schools: Prepares students for prosperous jobs in the future and supports students, guardians, and staff for district transformation.

Education focused Non-profits

Salesforce will donate nearly $7 million to support non-profits in the US, France, Germany, and the UK. These non-profits look to help young people (mainly) gain the skills they need to find jobs in technology.

  • 3DE Schools (US): Expands career-connected high schools through 3DE’s model, accelerating college and career readiness and enhancing teacher effectiveness.
  • CodePath (US): Reprogramming higher education to create the most diverse generation of engineers, CTOs, and founders.
  • Education at Work (US): Helps high-achieving college students gain career-ready skills and financial stability to succeed after post-secondary graduation.
  • Jobs for the Future (US): Improves opportunities for students and workers by expanding IT apprenticeships in San Francisco, Chicago, and Atlanta.
  • Jewish Vocational Service (US): Helps Bay Area youth explore career paths, learn IT skills, and engage with employers, improving local economic mobility.
  • Marcy Lab (US): Provides alternative pathways to tech careers for underserved young adults through technical training, leadership development, and employment.
  • Sports dans la Ville (France): Connects underserved youth to meaningful careers through sports, social-emotional skills, digital skills, and career connections.
  • Start (Germany): Expands access to meaningful education and careers for migrant youth through programs focused on digital skills and career readiness skills.
  • The Careers & Enterprise Company (UK): Provides career education in collaboration with primary and secondary schools, higher education institutions, and employers.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

Salesforce continues to help build the workforce of the future. While many organisations are leaving San Francisco, Salesforce continues to invest in the city, which can only benefit the organisation in the long term. With over $100 million donated to both Schools and Hospitals, the philanthropic initiatives are echoed by Zoho with its transnational localism.

It is disappointing that more organisations have not followed the Salesforce initiative. With this latest announcement, though more muted than in previous years, during Dreamforce, it is good to see that Salesforce has not stopped giving back initiatives within the local community.

This is both philanthropic and a long-term play that enhances the brand’s reputation in a small set of people, some of whom might aspire to become employees.


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