A Q&A With Carrie Varoquiers on Collaborating during the COVID-19 Crisis

Carrie Varoquiers, President, Workday Foundation; VP, Global Impact & Employee Life

 

The Workday Foundation has partnered with 20+ other Bay area companies and organizations to support those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis, donating more than $20 million to the cause. We found this partnership of possible competitors both fascinating and inspiring, and reached out to ACCP member Carrie Varoquiers, who is the President of the Workday Foundation and Vice President of Global Impact & Employee Life at Workday.

 

This partnership between Workday and 20+ other Bay area companies and organizations is both fascinating and inspiring. Can you tell us a little bit about how the group came together? Was this group formed in the wake of COVID-19, or did it already exist?

I am a member of a group of about 12 social impact leaders in tech in the Bay Area. We have been meeting every other month for 6 years now and have responded to many natural disasters over that time period. As soon as COVID-19 landed in the news, we immediately reached out to each other via email to find out what our respective companies were doing to respond. This was pretty early days in this crisis, and Salesforce had already stepped up and made some commitments to small businesses and nonprofits in San Francisco. Ebony Beckwith, Salesforce’s Chief Philanthropy Officer, asked the group if we wanted to pool resources and co-fund some local initiatives together, since we are all headquartered in the SF Bay Area. We immediately said yes! At the same time, Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco, organized a very similar group of tech companies to advocate for investments in a COVID-19 response. A couple of days later, we connected and joined forces, and together we continue to encourage other companies to join us.

 

What was the goal of the group? What did it set out to achieve?

We began the conversation focused on local support - sharing information about the various community organizations that were planning response efforts. However, it quickly blossomed into a larger discussion about how we could support response efforts locally, nationally in the U.S., and globally. Salesforce lent team member time to help organize calls, develop the agenda, track company responses, and lead discussions with various non-profit organizations. We pretty quickly agreed on investing in the COVID relief funds being led by Silicon Valley Community Foundation, CDC Foundation, and the UN Foundation/WHO.

 

Were there certain things each member of the partnership had to commit to beforehand, in terms of what each was expected to contribute - dollar amount, manpower, technology or other capabilities; who got credit for what, how decisions would be made, etc.?

No. We actually all agreed that no one wanted “credit”. The goal from the outset was, and continues to be, to encourage companies to get involved in relief and recovery efforts. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment in history. All companies are welcome to join us, regardless of what they can contribute. Some companies put in millions of dollars, other much smaller organizations put their products or technology to use. 

 

Has the group been successful in achieving the goals they set? Why or why not?

We were successful in quickly coming together to co-fund such an important effort. However, we won’t really know how successful those targeted investments were until much later.

 

Have there been any hang-ups or issues along the way? If so, can you give us an example and how it was resolved?

Having limited funds, some companies wanted to donate in the city where they are headquartered, rather than make investments in the greater U.S. Again, the group came together to encourage a business leadership response - donations are so desperately needed in so many places that while this was meant to be a collaborative response, we allowed for flexibility within the framework.

 

Do you have any tips/best practices you could share for other corporations or organizations looking to do the same thing?

My best advice is to get involved with other corporate grantmakers, in your local region and through groups like ACCP, long before a crisis strikes. Our close-knit group has formed a trusted bond over many years, and it allowed us to quickly mobilize without any questions about motives. We are truly in this together.

 

Thank you to Carrie Varoquiers of Workday or her insights. For more information on the partnership, visit the Workday blog here.