RESEARCH NOTE: My Rewarding Experience with Box.org’s Digital Transformation Grants for Nonprofits

By Melody Brue - February 20, 2024
On Box’s Global Impact Day, December 14, 2023, Box employees teamed up with Save the Shores to pick up nearly 470 pounds of trash in the neighborhood around the company’s Redwood City, California, headquarters.

I was recently invited to be a judge for this year’s Box.org Impact Fund grant awards. This year, Box awarded six $25,000 grants for digital transformation to support nonprofit organizations. The grants, announced last week, were awarded based on impact, inclusion, scale, and alignment to the theme of digital transformation.

In this piece, I’d like to share some information about the organizations that Box.org has awarded grants to, along with my own experience with the process.

2023–2024 Box Impact Fund Grantees

These awards were made across Box’s focus areas of advancing child welfare, supporting crisis response, and protecting our planet.

Child Welfare

Foster America: Foster America plans to use grant funds to create a social app to connect foster youth. The platform will enable emotional check-ins and provide therapeutic tools to enhance foster children’s well-being. 

Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village: This organization will use the Box.org funds to improve student services to empower Rwandan orphaned youth by integrating essential student data into a comprehensive system.

Environment

NatureServe: To leverage more than five decades of expertise in biodiversity data, NatureServe will utilize the grant to establish a two-way data exchange platform, focusing on delivering real-time information for protecting plants and animals in North America.

Brain Builders Youth Initiative: To ensure clean water access and promote environmental sustainability in Nigeria, the organization will deploy solar-powered, ATM-style water kiosks, minimizing ecological impact.

Crisis Response

International Refugee Assistance Project: IRAP will develop a global public hub for legal resources, simplifying access for displaced refugees all around the world so they can claim their right to freedom.

Sesame Workshop: Focused on global education, Sesame Workshop (formerly Children’s Television Workshop) will utilize the grant to develop an AI coding scheme to extract insights from a play-based assessment. The goal of the project is to understand the emotional well-being of children affected by crisis and conflict.

The Joy and Impact of Giving

Reviewing the grant applications was interesting because I learned about each finalist organization’s impact and needs, as well as how tools (including Box) can help with their digital transformation and amplify their missions. Interestingly—whether intended or not—the review process also served as a Box product tour of sorts, as I’ll explain below.

Box issued a call for entries and used its social channels to encourage organizations to apply for the grants. Any nonprofit, regardless of its location, size, or relationship to Box (customer or not) could enter. In my many years serving on nonprofit boards, I’ve often witnessed the tedious experience of grant applications. Box made the process a little less painful for the nonprofits that applied. Each grant application required a short video along with answers to a questionnaire that were entered, stored, viewed, and scored in a secured file within Box.

I am a longtime Box user and am familiar with basic file storage and access, but the experience of accessing videos and collaborating with my fellow judges gave me a glimpse into features I don’t typically access. We had a final meeting where all the judges gathered to discuss the scores and final grantees, but most of the process happened collaboratively within the Box environment.

Bringing Box Employees into the Process

Box also solicited the help of employees in the grantee selection process during its annual Global Impact Day. Box trained more than 100 “Boxers” (Box employees) on what to look for and how to grade the applications. The employees helped vet the applications down to the final 12 that were sent to the judging panel.

Based on what I heard, the Boxers thoroughly enjoyed the process. “I loved seeing how people all over the world were working on ways to better their communities.” Sophia Shoemaker said. “It was such a heartwarming and meaningful experience for me.” Another Box employee, Alexus Kelly, echoed this sentiment. “I found this exercise to be truly impactful . . . I really resonated with some of their missions. If I was able to play any part in helping them towards their goal, I am grateful.”

The grant contest is not the only philanthropic initiative through which Box engages with the nonprofit community. Box provides more than 11,000 nonprofit organizations with capacity-building resources through its Content Cloud for Nonprofits—helping them to manage document creation, volunteer onboarding, and more. Over the past year, Box has provided nonprofits with $39 million worth of in-kind Box product discounts and product donations.

The Competitive Advantage of Corporate Giving

Ultimately, corporate giving contributes to the greater good while also cultivating a sense of purpose, collaboration, and shared values among a company’s stakeholders. Charitable initiatives can also enhance a company’s reputation, attracting like-minded clients and partners who value socially responsible business practices.

A Qualtrics studyshows that more than half of U.S. employees (54%) would be willing to take a pay cut to work at a company with better values. Employees who actively participate in corporate giving often experience increased job satisfaction, a sense of pride in their organization, and improved morale. Beyond those benefits, involving employees in initiatives like these can be another crucial avenue for creating a company culture that welcomes diverse people, thoughts, and backgrounds.

Box’s efforts seem to be gaining traction, and the company said it saw a substantial increase this year in applicants globally. “We are really proud of how the fund enables organizations to innovate, become more efficient, test and scale services, and successfully complete projects,” Corrie Conrad, vice president for communities and impact and executive director of Box.org at Box, said. “Box.org drives positive change by bringing together our people, products, and philanthropy. With a focus on inclusion, we drive digital transformation and live by the philosophy of being a good neighbor.”

Not All Giving Looks Alike

My Moor Insights & Strategy colleague Will Townsend sat on a panel of judges for T-Mobile For Business’ second annual Unconventional Awards in 2023 and had a similarly rewarding, albeit somewhat different, experience.

The Unconventional Awards showcase the innovative use of T-Mobile For Business connectivity solutions across industries and educational institutions. Rather than focusing on the work of the nonprofit, T-Mobile takes a more roundabout and enterprise-first approach. “The Unconventional Awards highlight companies’ innovative solutions and give back to the communities where [T-Mobile’s] customers do business.” Townsend said. “It’s a different approach that highlights the company’s solutions and customers and funds critical projects. It’s a win-win-win.” 

T-Mobile gives $5,000, $10,000, and $25,000 awards in each of four categories—Customer Experience, Employee Enablement, Industry, and Community—to winners’ charities of choice. You can read more about Townsend’s experience as a two-time judge here.

Final Thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed participating as a judge for this year’s Impact Fund grants. Although I track Box and many of its competitors, the experience of being a judge gave me insights into the company I would not have otherwise seen as an analyst. I had the opportunity to experience the company’s product in new ways and witnessed its impact on a sector that industry analysts usually overlook.

The nonprofit sector is becoming increasingly significant, having reached a global market valuation of $277 billion in 2022, according to Maximize Market Research. Nonprofit organizations are leveraging technology to enhance their impact in a time of growing digital advancements. While I do trust that Box believes in the good causes supported by its charitable efforts, the company’s investment in digital transformation for nonprofits is also an investment in its own growth as these organizations strive for a sustainable digital future.

I look forward to seeing how these Box.org grants help the grantee organizations amplify their impact across the critical focus areas. I also look forward to seeing what kind of market share Box will have in this digitally transforming sector after making these early and important investments.

+ posts
Mel Brue is vice president and principal analyst covering modern work and financial services. Mel has more than 25 years of real tech industry experience in marketing, business development, and communications across various disciplines, both in-house and at agencies, with companies ranging from start-ups to global brands. She has built a unique specialty working in technology and highly regulated spaces, such as mobile payments and finance, gaming, automotive, wine and spirits, and mobile content, ensuring initiatives address the needs of customers, employees, lobbyists and legislators, as well as shareholders.