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At the individual level, giving in the IT industry also leans toward finding innovative approaches to educational and other causes, oftentimes beyond U.S. borders. IT entrepreneurs also bring a youth that philanthropy hasn't traditionally seen from corporate leaders.
Philanthropists from previous generations such as industrialist Andrew Carnegie turned to philanthropy after successful careers, noted the Foundation Center's Smith. In the tech industry, entrepreneurs such as Facebook's Zuckerberg are accumulating wealth at a young age but not waiting until their careers are over to give back.
"In the tech world, we're seeing people in their late 20s, 30s or early 40s saying, 'I transformed the way people network and use technology. What will I do next?' " Smith said. "A lot are turning to philanthropy."
Coady from the CEPC said the Giving Pledge has been "game-changing" in how people understand the concept of legacy.
"Legacy is something that has an association with what you leave behind after you're gone," she said. "Buffett and Gates are challenging some of the most financially fortunate people to consider this: What if we shifted the time horizon of legacy and thought about it as what we're leaving behind right this minute."
A lot of people in the tech sector have come into their wealth at a time when this concept is gaining traction, Coady said.
Salesforce.com's Benioff has been a leader in encouraging young entrepreneurs to bake philanthropic values into companies from the start, she said. When Benioff founded the cloud computing company, he made a commitment to a 1/1/1 model of corporate philanthropy by donating 1 percent of equity, 1 percent of profit in the form of product donations, and 1 percent of employee time to charity.
"Benioff has been a mentor to a lot of entrepreneurs in helping them wrap their heads around that idea -- when you start a company, you're also starting a relationship with society and you should think about that as much as anything else in your business plan," Coady said.
Over its 12 years, the Salesforce.com Foundation has donated about 360,000 hours of community service, provided its product for free or at steep discounts to more than 16,000 nonprofits and awarded $40 million in grants.
Barbara Kibbe, chief operating officer at the Salesforce.com Foundation, said the 1/1/1 model was easy in the company's early days since it had no employees, profit or equity, but has grown to be much more than 1 percent. Today the San Francisco-based company has more than 8,000 employees and makes nearly $3 billion in revenue.
Employees have the opportunity to donate six days of paid time off to a charity of their choice, and those who use all six days earn the opportunity to make a foundation-funded grant to their charity. "Volunteer time is important," Kibbe said. "It's part of the culture."
Salesforce.com gives 10 licenses for free to any legitimate nonprofit; if the organization needs more, the company sells the cloud service at a 74 percent discount.
Matching employee giving -- up to $5,000 per employee -- is a big part of Salesforce.com's cash grant program, Kibbe said. The company also provides grants to nonprofits that innovate on the Salesforce.com platform and share their work with other nonprofits. For example, the Family Services Agency of San Francisco created a case management system that is mobile and compliant with federal privacy health-care rules, she said.
Earlier this year, the Salesforce.com Foundation said that it will donate $10 million over the next five years to projects that improve the lives of children and families in a disadvantaged area of San Francisco.
Of course, not everyone in the industry has such a public reputation for being philanthropic. Apple, for instance, has long been criticized as a laggard when it comes to giving to charitable causes. However, a report earlier this year indicated that CEO Tim Cook has instituted a charitable matching program for employees and, in an internal meeting, talked up Apple's contributions to Stanford University hospitals and the (RED) fight against AIDS in Africa.
While Stephen Vogelpohol, CEO of SocialGood.TV, said he was encouraged by the report of Apple's philanthropic efforts, he added, "I think they have a long way to go." Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
And while Zuckerberg has donated $100 million to improve the public school system in Newark, N.J., one corporate social responsibility expert questioned his company's charitable efforts.
"What are Facebook employees doing? How is Facebook, the platform, being used as a tool for good?" the expert said. "The question becomes: Are companies devoting the same energy and vigor to help solve social problems as they are about making money?"
Facebook could not be immediately reached for comment. The company recently added functionality on its Facebook Gifts feature that allows users to make charitable contributions to its nonprofit partners.