Why Atlassian founders Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes want you to give away 1% of your company

Why Atlassian founders Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes want you to give away 1% of your company

Two of Australia’s leading entrepreneurs are calling for Australian companies to follow in their footsteps and give 1% of their business to charity.

Atlassian founders Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes set aside 1% of the equity in Atlassian to the Atlassian Foundation when they started the company.

In April 2014, this 1% stake was worth an estimated $35 million. Now that stake is estimated to be worth more than $40 million.

But Farquhar and Cannon-Brookes are not content with just investing their own money into philanthropic ventures; they want other Australian companies to do the same.

Together with the Salesforce Foundation and the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado, Atlassian launched the Pledge 1% Program at the end for 2014. The goal is to secure pledges from 500 companies by December 1 this year.

The program encourages companies to pledge 1% of equity, products or employee time and the Pledge 1% website offers tools, best practices and other information for companies keen to get involved.

So far more than 80 companies have taken up the challenge, and Farquhar told Business Insider he wants to see ASX-listed companies on the list.

“The goal for us is that in my lifetime more than half the ASX 100 would’ve pledged 1% at some stage,” he said.

Scott Farquhar previously told SmartCompany the Atlassian Foundation is part of the “untold story” of the home-grown tech success story.

“It’s really about education,” Farquhar said.

“Ideally in 50 years’ time we want to say we have really achieved fixing something rather than just patching over something.”

While not all Australian companies have as much to give away as Atlassian, even small businesses should do what they can, according to Mark Rubbo, managing director of Melbourne bookselling chain Readings.

Rubbo established the Readings Foundation in 2009, pledging 10% of Readings’ profits to the foundation each year. Readings customers also make gold coin donations in store in exchange for gift wrapping and in-store events.

This year, the Readings Foundation will give $123,880 worth of grants to a range of projects and organisations that offer literacy and education programs.

Speaking to SmartCompany this morning, Rubbo said the foundation has now given away close to $1 million over its five-year lifespan.

“It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve done,” Rubbo says.

“It’s taken a while but now we are starting to see results. We support the Hot Desk Fellowships at the Wheeler Centre and around 80 people have gone through the program and their books are now being published.”

“From our point of view, literacy has a strong connection with books and our community,” he says.

“We can’t survive in our community unless it is prosperous and healthy and people are interested and engaged.”

The Readings Foundation also supports organisations like the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, giving grants to the centre’s schools program, and Reading Out of Poverty, a Melbourne-based organisation that provides literacy support to disadvantages children and families.

“As a business you take from the community, it’s only right to give back,” Rubbo says.

“We give back in our taxes but if we don’t do our bit to encourage a stable and civil society, we’re not going to be around. I would encourage everyone to do it.”


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