For the first installment of our DocuSign IMPACT blog series, we sat down for an interview with DocuSign’s CIO, Eric Johnson. During our talk, he discussed his team’s work with nonprofits, his advice for other IT teams looking to give back, and the ripple effect philanthropic work has on company culture as a whole. 

How did the DocuSign IT department first become involved with DocuSign IMPACT? 

The IT department has been a passionate supporter of IMPACT from day one. It’s a very strong part of our culture — it’s basically built into our DNA. In my three years at DocuSign, the IT department has really set the standard for what it means to rally around opportunities and make a real difference.

My team has been actively working on building out the infrastructure and some of the processes in partnership with the Executive Director of DocuSign IMPACT, Amy Skeeters-Behrens. This has included helping set up some of the volunteer-time-off (VTO) processes, helping with reporting, etc.

Working with nonprofits really allows us to take our technology and apply it to help drive a greater good. IMPACT in itself doesn’t exist if the company and the culture and the people who support it. Many people on the IT team have relationships with nonprofits they enjoy and appreciate. They know there’s an opportunity to leverage DocuSign in whichever nonprofit they personally support. It’s really about giving back and being supportive of the nonprofit community overall.

Could you explain a little about the DocuSign IMPACT nonprofit discount program? 

DocuSign technology is available free of charge to any nonprofit that has under $1 million operating budget. If it’s over $1 million, they still get a significant discount. Our goal is to help ensure there’s no barrier for the nonprofit community to gain access to our technology. We want people to have the opportunity to leverage the DocuSign technology and platform no matter their budget — whether that’s the Special Olympics, Larkin Street, Techbridge Girls, or any of the other nonprofits we support. Hundreds of nonprofits are taking advantage of our technology every day, and thousands of nonprofits total have taken advantage of either free or greatly discounted technology.

Employees across the IT department use their VTO to help nonprofits get DocuSign up and running. Could you tell us a little bit about this?

The team focuses a lot on implementation and best practices. They make sure the nonprofits we’re helping get the most out of the DocuSign technology. Giving them customized guidance and support is also incredibly valuable because it leaves them with a strong knowledge of how to use the technology and follow best practices.

We regularly will work with nonprofits like Special Olympics, Team Rubicon, and others. Whenever there is an opportunity to assist a nonprofit on how to best leverage our technology or anything related to the platform, we’re always happy to help. That’s an integral part of our culture as an IT Team — people are always willing to help out and get on the phone. They’ll even use their VTO to visit nonprofits in their office and help them out in-person. This not only helps ensure the nonprofit is getting the most value out of our solution, it also helps their organization achieve greater efficiency so they can devote more time to their mission.

What aspect of the IT team’s work with nonprofits would you say you are most proud of? 

I’m most proud of the fact that the team is always looking for opportunities to get involved. For some, it’s setting up the IMPACT program and coordinating how we manage our VTO. For others, it’s participating in our quarterly philanthropic event where we go somewhere in the local community — whether it’s the food bank here in San Francisco, or cleaning up city parks.

No matter the project, I see a lot of energy and excitement from the team about getting involved.  People don’t have to participate — they simply want to participate. The act of helping someone else without receiving anything in return is rewarding. Many folks express that they feel they’re getting more out of the volunteer work than the nonprofits we’re helping. And to an extent it’s true: Team building, interacting outside of work, and giving back is a win-win situation for our team and for the nonprofits we’re helping.

When you participate in volunteer service, it’s particularly meaningful because you’re with other people who share that same value. Having a shared sense of purpose tends to create strong bonds. When you’re doing something good for others, it creates really good energy and really good will amongst the team, and this mentality translates back to the culture of the team as a whole.

It also makes me happy to know this type of work isn’t limited to our office here in San Francisco. IMPACT is a global effort that our international teams participate in as well — from Paris to Dublin to Tel Aviv.

A strong part of the IT Department’s culture is working with nonprofits like Genesys Works and YearUp to help mentor youth. Could you tell us a little about this? 

We bring in many individuals through nonprofits — both as interns for our intern program with Genesys Works and YearUp, and through programs to bring in youth from the local area. We help these young people gain the necessary skills to work in a professional environment and land a job.

The team here dedicates their time and energy to mentor and coach high school kids that, in many cases, wouldn’t have an opportunity to participate in a work environment. Many of the kids that visit with us grow and develop and go off to something bigger and brighter.

When interns come in, we pair each intern with a mentor. Not only does this provide the mentees with the necessary skills to land jobs, it gives our internal staff the opportunity to build their own mentoring skills. The same people we mentor become candidates later on for permanent roles within the organization. So the value return is that we have qualified candidates coming back, who get up to speed very quickly because they already have experience with DocuSign. Other mentees may leave and not come back, they still go out into the workforce with a positive perspective.

We not only love mentoring, we get really capable people on board with us. It’s that win-win mentality that has helped bond our IT team together. They’re doing something that is beyond the day-to-day work.

You recently made a nine-year commitment as a board member for Larkin Street Youth Services. Would you please tell a little about why you chose Larkin Street Youth Services and how you first heard about them?

I first heard about the organization at a dinner they were organizing to honor our former CFO. Our Executive Director of the Impact organization, Amy, introduced me to the board. She also gave me a lot of perspective on strong nonprofits in the area in general.

When you’re looking to join a nonprofit board, their mission has to be something you’re passionate about. You’re giving up a huge chunk of time that demands a lot of hard work and dedication, so you really need to be careful when considering investing that kind of time and energy.

I chose to work with Larkin Street because I wanted to positively impact the local community I live and work in. I also wanted to work with youth, because I feel they’re a section of our society that are not as well-represented. Larkin Street hit both of those issues by supporting homeless youth here in San Francisco. They operate exclusively out of San Francisco. Dealing with youth can be a real challenge — particularly when you’re working with a population that has experienced the trauma of homelessness. But Larkin Street does an exceptional job.

What are some of the things you hope to accomplish during the next nine years as a Larkin Street board member?

I want to help the organization improve and broaden the services they provide. One way to do that is to optimize how they run their processes internally. Nonprofits fight for dollars every day, and every dollar counts. If you can take a dollar and stretch it farther because you find ways to automate and reduce costs, you can provide broader services to the constituents you’re trying to serve. That’s where DocuSign comes in: The beauty of this technology is that it really helps companies and nonprofits alike get the very most out of the money they spend doing business. It translates into the nonprofit sector really well — and that’s why I think we have such strong nonprofit support within the company. I feel the nonprofit community really embraces us, too. They see how we can be valuable to them. I’m a conduit to the company in being able to spread the Docu-Love to the nonprofit.

What’s your vision for the future on how the IT department can contribute to philanthropic causes? 

One of the biggest things our team can do is continue to mentocoach and reach out to the nonprofit community to help .  I believe there is an opportunity to leverage the strong culture of giving back along with the wealth of knowledge we have internally at Docusign to build a program of assisting non-profits with best practices/services as part of our IMPACT foundation.   While there’s a lot of people out there who have a lot of experience with our product, I still think it’s important to use our VTO in a more structured and organized way to continue to assist nonprofits. Perhaps there are people making mistakes or not getting the very most out of the platform. I see helping nonprofits out to ensure they’re getting the most value from our technology as a continuing opportunity for our IT department.

What advice would you give to other businesses and individuals looking to assist nonprofits? 

As an IT leader and building an organization with purpose, I think it starts with the top. If the leadership at the top of the organization is genuinely supportive — not only through their words but through their actions — they can help create a culture of giving back. I believe it helps drive that type of culture across an organization. I honestly think people do want to be involved and do want to help others. It’s a natural instinct for people to have. As a leader, walk the talk and show a commitment to giving back regularly.

If you’re showing that you’re committed, it will pay dividends both from a cultural perspective and through staff engagement.

If you’d like to learn more about the work DocuSign IMPACT does for nonprofits around the globe, or if you’d like to become involved, click here.