Philanthropy is in My Jeans

Levi Strauss & Co.
May 8, 2014

For me, philanthropy started at home. From a young age my parents taught me the value of giving back and working to improve my community. When I was 5 years old, my dad would make me put on a suit and tie to go dial for dollars at the Jewish Community Foundation’s annual Super Sunday fundraising event (for the record, I wasn’t very good at it). My mom encouraged me to volunteer at a shelter for homeless families when I was in grade school (something I was much better at). And, my late stepfather, Peter Haas, the former President of Levi Strauss & Co., presented yet another case for giving back — the business case.

He saw the value of philanthropy from the perspective of running a global company — one with employees in more than 30 diverse countries and communities all across the world. He recognized how integral corporate philanthropy is not only to the places and people where the company operates, but also the benefit it delivers to the bottom line and the influence it has in shaping and defining the company’s culture.

Tipping Point Community, the organization I started with three other board members nine years ago to fight poverty in the Bay Area, is a product of my upbringing. Since its founding, Tipping Point grantees have served more than 365,000 low-income Bay Area residents. Every year, we start at $0 and raise the money that is then distributed the following year. And, every year we give 100% of the dollars we raise directly to the most effective education, employment, housing and health organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Daniel Lurie at Compass Family Services

This week, I am proud to be celebrating that 20 Bay Area companies have signed on to the corporate challenge SF Gives and are committed to giving a combined $10 million to reach individuals and families in our community who are too poor to meet their basic needs.

Levi Strauss & Co. is a founding member of SF Gives and over the past 160 years, they have set the standard for corporate social responsibility. They know that if you are lucky enough to build a great company that yields great fortune, you have a responsibility to invest in the communities you call home. So it’s no surprise that yesterday’s SF Gives announcement coincided with Community Day, Levi Strauss & Co.’s annual day of service during which nearly 1,000 employees in San Francisco put their meetings and emails aside to volunteer at nonprofit organizations across the city (with 3,000 more doing the same thing in other communities where Levi Strauss & Co. has offices around the world).

All of the 20 initial companies in the SF Gives coalition, established and young ones alike, look to Levi Strauss & Co. as a model of excellence in corporate philanthropy. It is my hope that the model for corporate giving ingrained in the fabric of Levi’s® jeans will influence a whole new generation of young companies in our community and beyond, just as my parents influenced me. It is also my hope that SF Gives is just the start of what business in the Bay Area can do to create meaningful change for our neighbors by building better lives for us all.