Cisco Corporate Philanthropy

By Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, David Hoyt
2006 | Case No. SI58 | Length 11 pgs.

In 1984, Stanford University husband-and-wife team Leonard Bosack and Sandra Lerner founded Cisco Systems. The company developed and commercialized products that enabled computers to communicate with one another. As networking took off, Cisco’s sales grew rapidly and the company went public in 1990. By 2001, Cisco had achieved $22 billion in revenue. Although a subsequent downturn in the technology industry prompted a workforce reduction and reorganization, Cisco’s commitment to its customers and community remained a priority. As CEO, John Morgrage institutionalized a philanthropic culture and believed that a corporation could achieve profitability for shareholders while simultaneously supporting the people and the communities that ensured its success. Beginning with small-scale activities focused on community relations, Cisco’s philanthropic involvement grew into a substantial program that leveraged employees’ technical and intellectual capabilities in tandem with the company’s philanthropic investments. In 1997, Cisco created the Cisco Systems Foundation with $65 million to formally establish the company’s philanthropic efforts. By 2002, Cisco’s corporate philanthropy was based on a clear strategy of leveraging Cisco’s unique Internet competencies to effect positive, global change. To this end, Cisco contributed more than $205 million from the foundation and other corporate sources. As of 2002, Cisco had three primary philanthropic efforts: 1) the Community Investment Fund (CIF), which pre-dated the foundation; 2) Global Partnerships, which oversaw the Cisco Community Fellowships and relationships with organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the United Nations; and 3) the Cisco Foundation.

Learning Objective

Nonprofit strategic evolution, adaptive program development and fundraising in a rapidly changing environment.

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