The constant stream of grim news about the Covid-19 global pandemic sweeping the world and about the struggles of world governments to respond has me reeling emotionally and intellectually. I want to do something, but at first didn’t know where I could have an impact.  When I was invited to help, the answer was an instant heart-centered “yes”, delivered with confidence in my decision and the knowledge I would have the unquestioning support of my cofounders.

Giving Back Is in the Elevate DNA 

At Elevate, we have long been inspired by the Pledge 1% organization, and saw great examples in our time all working together at Rally Software, where founder Ryan Martens was also one of the founding members of Pledge 1%. 

We wanted to pledge 1% when we founded Elevate… and more. We felt that pledging 1% of our equity was reasonable, and we have commited that amount if we are acquired. We wanted to give even more of our profits, and we have done so, placing 2% of all founder distributions into an account that we use for donations in our team’s names.

It’s donating our time that really inspires us, however. I have watched companies implement the employee time portion of Pledge 1% in a variety of ways, often by having the entire company donate time to a local charity each quarter as a team-based activity. A whole company’s worth of 20 hours a year really adds up to a lot of impact; these groups can build incredible playgrounds, box huge volumes of food, and even build entire homes.

However, the work we do as Elevate consultants often far exceeds the value that we could provide in a team-building activity, where we are essentially unskilled labor. We desire to instead apply our professional skills in ways that help the organizations that are making a difference in the world, focusing locally for nonprofits wherever possible. We also know that our work has the highest impact when we are able to provide sustained focus and support over time, rather than just one-off engagements. As such, we decided that we would give 3% of our time to the world, ideally in ways that allow us to make a long-term difference for the organizations we support. Knowing that we are aligned as a leadership team on the importance of giving back made the next decision easy.

What did I say ‘yes’ to?

I said “yes” when the call went out for help forming an organization to connect software engineers with the urgent technology needs of the State of Colorado. I was able to say yes immediately. I did not need to engage in long discussions with my team to determine if it was the right thing. I did not need to evaluate the impact on the business. I knew that I had the full support of my team in offering the time and energy needed to make a difference in our community.

A little over a week ago, Citizen Software Engineers formed when former Rally CEO Tim Miller put out the call and a group of us met to start shaping and organizing a space where software engineers could be connected to the agencies and task forces that needed urgent help, helping shoulder some of the load coming at the dedicated teams already in place. Now, ten days later, we have almost 100 active daily participants, many more people helping where they can, and a volunteer list approaching 500 people ready to place their professional energy at the service of our community. The data our team has helped assemble and visualize is helping Colorado Governor Jared Polis make more informed decisions as he helps our state navigate the COVID-19 health crisis. 

I’ve had the joy of working with an amazing extended team, many of whom came out of the same Rally Software culture, and of helping what amounts to a startup scale through 100 people in a week, applying Lean and Agile principles to provide the enabling constraints while not slowing down value delivery, and coordinating across many functions quickly to ensure that everybody has the tools, alignment, and safety they need to make a difference. 

I encourage all of you to make a difference as well: Get involved, either with this effort or in one of the many efforts local to your own communities. 

If you’re working for a Pledge 1% company, or if you’ve found your summer vacation plans disrupted, consider a volunteer vacation instead, applying your PTO to offer a solid two weeks to one of the projects–a level of participation that can make a real difference.

And, finally, thank you to my co-founders Christine and Ronica for being so very aligned and supportive as I’ve thrown my energy into this, and for picking up the things I’ve set down in doing so. You are both amazing!