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Rajah Lehal

The New One Percent Is Giving

October 06, 2017

As soon as I met Jennifer and Upside Foundation of Canada, I liked what they were all about. Their foundation promotes the allocation of 1% of your company’s equity to a charitable purpose. Reserving a portion of your wealth is not new or unique. The Islamic principle of Zakat requires Muslims to donate 2.5% of their wealth to charity, and that principle is about a thousand years old. I’ve also become aware of Entrepreneur’s Pledge through my good friend Ryan Little (who is also a member of Founder’s Only).

The idea of participating in Upside resonates with me - I like to try and solve a good problem, and societal issues are some of the most complicated problems out there. Oh, what I would work on if I had unlimited time/money/resources.

So I have joined the other Upsider’s in their goal of 150 companies pledging 1% of their business to social impact by the time of Canada 150. Actually we were the 150th company!!

Why the 1% isn’t really enough.

I want to get started now - and my pledge of 1% is a potential (upon successful exit) future financial pledge.

Which, for now, means that it is goodwill, good karma and positive intentions. It is a commitment for a better FUTURE. But it’s not something that I can act upon or experience TODAY. My pledge is also at arm’s length and not face-to face with the problems that I’d like to be working on to solve.

Can I get a little help from my friends? Can I add one more percent?

Right now the shares invested with Upside are mine and mine alone. I’d like to have our company join me in thinking socially, and to that end, I have put a proposal in to the board and shareholders of my beloved clausehound.com to have an additional 1% in shares be contributed by the business. I would think this is a no-brainer because our company has always been supportive to devoting time to social impact activities; but at the same time it’s not a no-brainer because the role of the company board of directors in a for-profit corporation is to protect the shareholders and to maximize profit. So the conversation needs to be had - and the proposal is in.

It would be great if we were all in on this together.

That’s still not enough! Can I add some more percentage points?

Financial support alone seems like a lightweight approach to creating social impact. I really like the Salesforce model of 1-1-1, donating one percent of products, one percent of employee time (six days a year), and one percent of equity to charitable causes.

This is all new to me but I have some thoughts. Allocating people time in an unfocused unplanned way would yield difficult to measure results. I think we can do better than that:

First - our team knows our strengths. We are writers, organizers, designers and software engineers. We are lawyers who like to organize content. I wonder if we can find a social impact problem that aligns with our skills and expertise? (Of course, I’ll need to survey the team to see if that is what we want to work on). My instinct is that if we align our activity to our skills, we can make an exponential impact.

Second - we need a bit of structure. Who/what/where do we get started? Trying to fit social impact problem solving into a company’s business cycles and capacity planning is difficult. I love hackathons - they are finite challenges with demonstrable outcomes. I will need to investigate.

Third - getting face-to-face with the people whose lives are impacted by the proposed solution has to be part of this journey. It needs to be personal.

3 to 4%? That’s a lot of percentage points

Ha - my beloved Clausehound is not a healthy happy puppy, rather we are a starving startup, seeking our next several rounds of financing, so against the advice of every blog post on succeeding as an entrepreneur, this post proposes taking on more, doing less, and stretching ourselves even thinner. (So - hopefully this isn’t my last post! :p)

But we startup people are all resourceful, hard working, tenacious and problem solving types - can we bear a minus 3% or more on productivity? Yes, I think we can.

And doesn’t this just make it all the more meaningful?


Written by Rajah. Rajah Lehal is Founder and CEO of Clausehound.com. Rajah is a legal technologist and technology lawyer who is, together with the Clausehound team, capturing and sharing lawyer expertise, building deal negotiation libraries, teaching negotiation in classrooms, and automating negotiation with software.