This article series is sponsored by Silicon Valley Community Foundation and went through our normal editorial review process.
Imagine turning $25 loans into more than $21 million, impacting more than 1 million people globally, in just five years. No, this isn’t the latest Shark Tank pitch. It is the outcome of Hewlett Packard Company’s Matter to a Million employee-engagement program.
In 2013, Hewlett Packard Company partnered with Kiva, a nonprofit online platform dedicated to economic empowerment through loans, to answer a unique question: What if Hewlett Packard Company provided each of its 275,000-plus employees with a $25 Kiva credit? Employees could then log onto Kiva, view the thousands of global projects and lend the $25 to the borrower of their choice.
In 2015, Hewlett Packard Company divided into two separate companies: HP, Inc., which retained the personal and business computing and imaging products; and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), which provides products and services geared toward enterprises, including data center, networking and infrastructure solutions. Both companies continued offering employees the $25 Kiva credits each year, as by this point employees and leadership alike were extremely passionate about the program.
Karen Little, Kiva’s vice president, corporate engagement and partnerships, has worked with HP, Inc. and HPE on Matter to a Million since the beginning. During her phone interview with TriplePundit, she explained that the $25 credits for each employee were part of a revolving loan fund. As the small business entrepreneurs featured on Kiva repaid their loans (in an average of 14 months), employees’ $25 credits were made available again, meaning the same initial $25 could be reinvested many times over the five years.
“Kiva’s all about creating opportunity. There are so many people out there who have great ideas and want to support their family. All they are lacking is access to capital,” Little said. “It’s not charity – it’s empowerment.”
Empowerment on multiple levels, as acknowledged by Kathy Gu, program director of HPE Foundation. “We want HPE employees to participate and have a voice in our corporate philanthropy. Matter to a Million allows us to empower employees to empower others.”
For Stephanie Bormann, manager, HP, Inc. Foundation and employee giving, the partnership made sense because Kiva’s business model aligns with HP, Inc.’s vision of using technology to make life better for everyone everywhere.
“Kiva uses technology to unlock opportunity by enabling people in underserved and underrepresented communities to access capital,” Bormann said. “Kiva’s unique technology platform circumvents cultural, linguistic, social, and economic barriers making it easy for a global employee base to use.”
The original goal was for 10 percent of employees to participate in Matter to a Million. The results from that first campaign: 50 percent of employees, from more than 100 countries, participated in the program.
“[Matter to a Million] didn’t have a peak of excitement and then fade. It consistently stayed a meaningful employee engagement opportunity,” Little said.
“Matter to a Million provided continuity at a time of change and adjustment for the employees,” Bormann said.
Inspired by the program, 5,810 employees lent their own money in addition to the $25 credit, resulting in an extra $2 million in loans for Kiva borrowers over the past five years.
Employee participation was spurred by a network of “Lending Champions” and “Lending Leaders” who created buzz and excitement at their local sites, even incentivizing some friendly competition supported by a self-service reporting tool built in-house at HPE. “In this way, Matter to a Million is a unifying activity that connects employees globally both to each other, and to our work supporting local communities around the world,” Gu tells TriplePundit.
Another way the Matter to a Million program has benefited employees has been the increased collaboration and communication among colleagues and teams, as they worked together to co-fund loans. For example, 22 HP, Inc. employees lent to borrower Abadias, a toymaker from Colombia who used the loan to purchase wood and paint for his business.
Bormann said one of the best features of the partnership is that the platform enables employees to direct their own giving, choosing where and to whom they want to lend the credits. She shared a quote from Ivan Tan, an HP, Inc. Singapore employee, about his experience:
“What’s so great about Matter to a Million is that I can reach people in marginalized communities. It goes right to the heart of our culture by offering us an opportunity to give back to the communities where we live, work and play.”
“Matter to a Million is a shining example of how corporate philanthropy programs can be a true differentiator,” said Gregg Melinson, senior vice president, corporate affairs at HPE, in a recent Kiva blog post. “This partnership put our employees in the driver’s seat and made corporate philanthropy personal.”
HP Inc., HPE and their predecessor Hewlett Packard Company partnered with Silicon Valley Community Foundation and SVCF's predecessors on philanthropic initiatives for more than twenty years.
Megan is a freelance writer and editor interested in sharing stories of positive change and resilience. Her blog - Joyful, Brave & Awesome - chronicles her experience as a parent of a special needs child.