/ Entrepreneurship

How BrainStorm Uses Company Culture To Promote Social Good, As Told By A Former PropellerHead

I think most feel like BrainStorm is very unique in the way we allow them to keep giving. Giving is not what we do but who we are.

One morning I pulled into BrainStorm’s parking lot and saw my coworker Jourdan unloading an impossible amount of soccer balls from her car. Jourdan was on the Corporate Giving Committee, which had coordinated some sort of outreach event that required 47ish soccer balls. This — the planned service and the employee efforts that went into it — was not unusual. Nor was it unusual when the entire company spent a work day painting a community center, or when John Wade and Eric Farr, the company principals, handed each employee $100 to donate to a cause of our choice during the holidays.

BrainStorm was my first full-time employer, so, much like a small child believes everything their family does is normal, I believed every startup to be as generous as the one I for which I worked. But, just like that child going away to school and learning that actually their family is the only family that eats cereal out of paper bags or whatever, since my departure I have learned that BrainStorm is incredibly unique in its humanitarian efforts.

And their humanitarian efforts have grown exponentially (much like the company itself) over the last few years. BrainStorm was recently named by Fortune as one of the top 5 “Best Workplaces for Giving Back.” This took into consideration feedback from about 240,000 employees in a diverse range of industries, as well as company volunteer programs and charitable giving relative to revenue. The recognition reflects employees’ assessments of their sense of purpose and meaning in BrainStorm community involvement.

“One of our main goals is to make sure this is one of the best places our employees will work and giving back is an important part of that,” says Farr. Farr and Wade provide a monthly allowance for every employee to spend on somebody that may be down in some way or another. This does not mean a BrainStorm employee just sends cash. Instead, it means the employee uses their allowance to creatively brighten a life. For example, a member of the BrainStorm sales team recently learned that a customer had been diagnosed with cancer. He knew this customer enjoyed panning for gold, so the BrainStorm employee found a box, packed it with dirt from a hidden gold mine, and wrote a card instructing the customer to pan in some Utah land. “[The customer] couldn’t believe an organization would do that for them,” Farr says, then explains, “We feel like we’re blessed, and we’ve made it a core concept to bless those we come in contact with.”

BrainStorm also has their Corporate Giving Committee (see anecdote in opening paragraph) with a monthly budget. Employees submit project ideas and the committee funds the approved ideas. And employees still receive money to donate during the holidays. “I’ve been amazed how people have been able to turn little amounts into big amounts,” Farr says, explaining that employees often use the money to jumpstart larger donation projects. Employees can also contribute from their paychecks using Purpose Portfolio and many employees choose to do so. “I think most feel like BrainStorm is very unique in the way we allow them to keep giving,” Farr says. “Giving is not what we do but who we are.”

A lot has changed since I last called myself a PropellerHead. The company relocated to a bigger office to house it’s sixty new employees, raised $6.4 million in a series A round, grew their lists of clients and partners, and evolved the entire mission of the company to actually change the way the world works. Yet, at the core of BrainStorm are the same goodhearted people that sent me a gift after my first child was born, just because they knew that a tiny onesie, hat, and pair of baby shoes would brighten my day.

Published 6/3/2016