Member Spotlight: GFTB Digital

Christopher Arena and members of his alumni group at a recent clean up day at Y2Y, Harvard Square

Christopher Arena and members of his alumni group at a recent clean up day at Y2Y, Harvard Square

April 1, 2019

We recently caught up with Christopher Arena, CEO of Boston-based creative agency GFTB Digital, to learn more about what giving back means to him. Chris founded GFTB in 2016 after an extensive battle with a sudden-onset autoimmune condition that caused him to spend the better part of 6 months in and out of hospitals. Chris, and the 20 or so photographers, videographers, designers, and developers he consults with, are dispersed all throughout the country.


Q: What initially drew you to the Pledge 1% movement and the Boston chapter?

Honestly, I had no idea that it was connected to the Boston Foundation at first. I first heard of it through a local technology news blog. Before I moved to Boston, I started reading BostInno to learn about the culture of creativity and how intellectual capital was dispersed in this city. The first BostInno article I read was about Pledge 1%, and I thought to myself… my whole personal moral compass has always been one founded on resilience, kindness, and transparency. Through illness, I’ve learned that there’s no guarantee of today, so I would rather spend my time with those I love and my money on helping others. When I met with Tim Smith at the Boston Foundation, he helped me implement my pledge and think about the impact I wanted to make. I quickly decided to narrow my focus to supporting Y2Y, a student operated homeless shelter in Harvard Square.


Q: You’ve done quite a bit with Y2Y this year. Can you share your experiences with us?

I’ve volunteered with them a lot this year, and it’s great because they have several two to three hour shifts all day and night that work around your schedule. My partner, Yuqi, and I aren’t able to volunteer during the day or early evening. But we can volunteer after 6 PM and were able to do so at least a half dozen times in 2018. I love being there and helping out because you're actually spending proper time with the youth, cooking dinner for them, helping them with their laundry and nightly chores, and in doing so you get a fantastic chance to connect with these kids. I also have helped organize a few deep cleans at the shelter with my college alumni association. There is also a rather high population of queer youth at Y2Y. It’s a wonderfully welcoming place to all folks - with no implicit or explicit bias in the facilities and a gender-inclusive nature. I can see how if my family wasn’t as welcoming or if hardship came on my LGBT family members, they could have ended up there too.

One thing my partner and I have been doing this year that is particularly rewarding (and easy to do) which was inspired by Pledge 1%, is going through our things every couple of months and donating clothes for the season ahead.. We are able to make a sizable donation (2 bags or so) every other month and help replenish the Y2Y clothing storage and to make sure they have clothes for the right season.


Q: What has been your experience been being a part of the Pledge 1% family and working with the Boston Foundation?

The Boston Foundation’s staff have been incredible in helping me define goals and set my philanthropic agenda. As time has gone on, I’ve become more and more interested in making the most out of my resources and amplifying my impact. Pledge 1% Boston has been really helpful in connecting me with organizations where my time and skills can help the most. My main philanthropic goal in 2019 is to develop ideas of how to give back not just through the core pledges but also to help nonprofit executives increase their impact and build marketing and communications capacity.


Q: What are your future goals for GFTB Digital?

I’ve been blessed to work with some outstanding companies these past few years - the Smithsonian, Kroger (the world’s largest and most successful grocer), and Volkswagen to name a few - and I feel incredibly fulfilled in working with these folks. However, I find myself more and more drawn towards working more with nonprofits. I still hope to continue working with Fortune 500 companies on intentional, thoughtful, and impactful marketing campaigns as well - but it all comes back to how the work can add value back into the world.


Q: Do you have anything you want to say to other business leaders or anyone reading this?

Cutting a check is an amazing way to give back. But regardless if you can or can’t offer financial capital to your community, you can always find ways to give your time and expertise to movements and organizations you believe in. Don’t ever forget the human aspect. Sometimes your intellectual capital is just as valuable as financial capital. Engage!

If you are a business leader in the Boston area and would like to learn more about how to give back to your community like Chris, take the pledge here.

Gravyty ceo
Rings in

November 27, 2018

Adam Martel, CEO, and Lisa Alvezi, Director of Customer Success at Gravyty were invited to ring the NASDAQ opening bell on #GivingTuesday, an opportunity to celebrate the philanthropic holiday and the 4 year anniversary of Pledge 1%. Martel and Alvezi spoke to attendees from the trading floor on the importance of philanthropy and helping society through giving.

Gravyty was founded in 2016 with a mission of enhancing nonprofit organizations’ fundraising efforts through artificial intelligence. Since then, the tech company has launched several different solutions for organizations, such as First Draft that will send drafted email recommendations top fundraiser’s inbox, tailored for each donor, and Gravyty Go, which gives travel recommendations based on top donors and prospects, designed to maximize stewardship.

Gravyty joined Pledge 1% Boston in 2017 with a goal of giving back in a bigger way to the communities the company thrives in and where the co-founders were supported through their formative years as entrepreneurs. Read more…

September 6, 2018

Some of Boston's largest tech firms are catching onto the donor-advised fund trend as an alternative to creating their own foundations to handle their philanthropic efforts.

Three local public tech companies — Carbonite Inc., Mimecast Ltd. and LogMeIn Inc. — have established donor-advised funds in the past year and a half. All three companies have eschewed Fidelity, Vanguard and the other big investment firms, choosing instead to rely on the Boston Foundation.

Under the arrangement, the companies make a single donation to the Boston Foundation, which then periodically disburses the funds to various nonprofit organizations that align with each companies’ priorities for charitable giving…Read more

Brand aid: Why tech firms are turning to donor-advised funds

July 31, 2018

“I’m not an MIT genius who can catch lightning in a bottle,” claims entrepreneur Barry Hinckley, “but I am good at discovering opportunity and finding the unexplored territory within that, then hanging around long enough to find a product/market fit.” 

He did that with his last company, Bullhorn, a software and operations solution for the staffing industry that now employs more than 700 people globally. He’s at it again with his startup Yotme, an experience marketing and social relationship management (SRM) platform that he describes as being “at the crossroads of customer relationship management and social networking.” 

And this time he’s got philanthropy built into the very business model of his enterprise…Read more 

When IPO Means Initial Philanthropic Offering

Public Art on the greenway

July 9, 2018

The Boston Foundation and Pledge 1% Boston member Cuseum brought together several individuals for a tour of public art curated by the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, one of Boston's most innovative art organizations. This was a unique opportunity to learn about how the Conservancy is bringing transformative contemporary art to the Greenway.

The Greenway's Public Art Curator Lucas Cowan guided attendees through several exhibits:

The Shara Hughes MuralGLOW, Luftwerk, and the works of artists Anne Lilly and Aakash Nihalani.

July 6, 2018

Another one of our favorite communities of practice is the Pledge 1% initiative, pioneered by Pledge 1% is a global movement that encourages and challenges both individuals and companies to Pledge 1% of equity, profit, product, and time for their communities. I had the exciting opportunity to speak with Tim Smith, Head of Pledge 1% Boston and Senior Director at The Boston Foundation (pictured) to learn about the newest trends in philanthropy and the unique role he plays in driving change in his local community.

What has been the most rewarding part of your career so far? What has been the most challenging?

These pieces are related so I’ll start with the most challenging. I am originally from Boston, but spent a decade in San Francisco where I ran a venture philanthropy foundation and established a strong network in the area… Read more 

Impact at Work: An Interview With Tim Smith

April 24, 2018

Boston's success is well-deserved, but it's not guaranteed. Here are three of our biggest threats - and how to avoid them.

Forty years ago, if you were to describe the reality of Boston in 2018 to those following the cityscape of 1978, you’d have been called a delusional optimist — or worse.

Today, while not perfect, Boston is the envy of the nation for our business growth, our regional economy, our clean harbor, and our unmatched combination of education, health, and high-tech institutions that have driven year after year of growth and prosperity.

Unless we let it slip away… Read more

Saving the Boston Renaissance

March 21, 2018

Diana Akelman usually goes at things at 110 percent. But recently she’s found something appealing about 1 percent. Pledge 1% Boston, that is. Akelman was part of a wave of new members to the movement during Pledge 1% Boston’s ambitious “60 x 60” campaign at the end of 2017: to double its membership from 30 to 60 in 60 days.

Pledge 1% Boston is the regional arm of the global Pledge 1% movement, which rallies founders and companies—especially, but not exclusively, new or young ones—to pledge early in their organization’s life to give 1% of equity and other resources for social change.

For Akelman, founder and CEO of software startup PetPocketbook, Pledge 1% is a concrete way to make a tangible commitment toward the company’s social mission: reducing the number of pets surrendered because pet parents lack access to the help they need in caring for them…Read more

60 x 60 Success: Pledge 1% Boston Meets an Ambitious Goal

February 1, 2018

This month, the Boston Foundation and TUGG (Technology Underwriting Greater Good) are wrapping up our drive to get 60 companies signed on to Pledge 1% Boston.


More than 60 founders, business leaders, and companies have signed a pledge to donate 1 percent of their time, equity and/or profits to support community organizations. But we have no intention of stopping now. We're building a community of members that recognize the power of giving back to the communities that help make their success possible - a community of people like Adam Martel and Rich Palmer of Gravyty, who are reflecting on a year of growth and commitment to Pledge 1%. We caught up with Adam and Rich to talk about the past year and the impact Pledge 1% has had on their business and their personal approach to philanthropy...Read more

Gravyty, and a pull to Pledge 1%

January 22, 2018

Ben Hill is the founder of Shareity, and a member of Pledge 1% Boston. Shareity is a platform that monetizes selfie challenges for good causes. Individual selfie-takers, sponsors and charities are united through Shareity to spread awareness and raise money for causes of all kinds—hunger, disaster relief, medical research and more. Ben says, “Everyone is here for a purpose and one of the most important accomplishments is the positive impact one has had in this world before you leave.” Shareity provides a way for individuals to contribute to that positive impact even if they don’t have much money to give away, by joining a community supporting a cause and donating their social influence. Sponsors eager to reach this demographic pay for that with donations to their causes. ... Read more

Shareity- Pledge 1% Boston Member Spotlight

Pledge 1% Boston kicks off campaign to reach 60 members in next 60 days

November 29, 2017

 Pledge 1% Boston, Greater Boston’s regional initiative of the global Pledge 1% movement, is stepping up efforts to catalyze a community of startups and other innovation economy players that support their communities. Beginning Wednesday, November 29 with the ringing of the NASDAQ Opening Bell by the leaders of the Pledge 1% movement, Pledge 1% Boston plans to double its local roster of members to 60 by the end of January.

“The innovation sector has rallied around the idea of engaging with and supporting community organization in Greater Boston and beyond,” said Tim Smith, Senior Director of Innovation Partnerships at the Boston Foundation. “We hope this campaign will inspire new companies and founders – including those who are already informally committed to supporting their communities – to make a formal pledge to prioritize community well-being.” ... Read more

Pledge 1% Boston named Bostinno's 50 on Fire for 2017

Nov. 9, 2017

Civic/Social Impact Winners: We looked for the game changers in our community who are making a lasting local and global impact with their work. These are the catalysts for change, socially, economically and environmentally, that are on fire this year.

BostInno’s 50 on Fire honors the hottest companies, organizations and people from across a number of categories, each one operating within or around the city’s innovation economy. ... Read more

Jul. 12. 2017

Holland & Knight jumped at the chance to get involved with the Pledge 1% initiative, which is so important for a law firm dedicated to helping others. Holland & Knight's Public and Charitable Service Department was created in 2009 to integrate the firm's global pro bono, community service and charitable giving initiatives to make deeper investments in communities in need.

“Holland & Knight is proud to partner with the Boston Foundation, TUGG and others to scale the Pledge 1% Boston program. Boston is a hub of innovation, but also has the largest wealth gap of all U.S cities. We encourage entrepreneurs and founders to learn about issues in our communities and grow their businesses in socially responsible ways,” Jeff Seul, Partner at Holland & Knight. ... Read more

Holland Knight | City of Ideas


TripAdvisor joins pledge 1% Boston

Jun. 12, 2017

TripAdvisor is now part of the Boston chapter of the Pledge 1% movement, a national philanthropic organization encouraging companies to give 1 percent of their equity, employee time and products to good causes. Specifically, the travel website company is committing money and resources to support underserved populations around the world, but also locally.

“The reality [is] that there are underserved communities in our own backyard here in New England,” Tali Golan, Director for Philanthropy and Inclusion at TripAdvisor, wrote in an email to BostInno. “We know we can be doing more to understand and address local needs, and for this reason, we are eager to join Pledge 1% Boston and work with The Boston Foundation.” ... Read more

Door of Clubs - City of Ideas

May 30, 2017

Pranam Lipinski was born and raised in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in the town of Adams.  While attending Endicott College as a business major, he co-founded the college’s Investment Club.  It was through founding that club that Pranam developed his desire to support and harness the initiative of students who participate in clubs at schools.  Today, he is Co-Founder of the new Pledge 1% Boston company Door of Clubs.

A few years ago, he toured Massachusetts and met with about 50 different student clubs to research ways he could support them and connect them with opportunities ... Read more

Tech startups pledge to spread the wealth

May 11, 2017

Revenue and profit are critical to every business.

The Boston Foundation wants charitable giving to be a key company benchmark, too.

That’s why last year it launched Pledge 1% Boston, now run jointly with Technology Underwriting Greater Good, an effort to promote corporate philanthropy, especially among the next generation of wealthy tech entrepreneurs. It’s part of a global movement in which participating companies or their founders promise to donate 1 percent of their equity to charity if they’re bought or go public. Donations can be in the form of nonprofit grants, matching employee gifts, volunteer time, or free or discounted products and services ... Read more

Apr. 13, 2017

Brendan Ciecko is the founder of Cuseum, and a proud early member of Pledge 1% Boston. Growing up in Massachusetts, he got his entrepreneurial start as a teenager and has always been dedicated to making our region more vibrant and engaging. Brendan built and scaled a successful company in the fast-paced music industry and was named one of America’s top entrepreneurs by Inc. Magazine – all before he could legally buy a drink.

In his 20s, his attention turned to museums. “Museums should be easy to access and enriching for all,” says Brendan, who is driven to help museums improve their digital engagement. As more visitors turn to their smartphones, Cuseum enables museums to offer a “digital docent” to meet this demand and improve visitor experiences ... Read more

Cuseum - City of Ideas

Taking the Pledge: Inside the Next Big Wave of Tech Philanthropy

Mar. 3, 2017

The rising philanthropy of the U.S. tech sector has come in waves.

In the first wave, the big winners from the early boom in computer hardware and software shifted billions of dollars into major foundations, creating the Hewlett, Packard, Moore and Gates foundations—all of which emerged as new powerhouses in American philanthropy around the end of the 20th century with global and national agendas. Other tech leaders who began ambitious giving in this first wave include Steve Case, Michael Dell, Pierre Omidyar, Jeff Skoll and Tim Gill.

In the second wave of tech philanthropy, starting around 2010, a new crop of tech leaders began to embrace giving. Philanthropists who emerged in this wave—or dramatically stepped things up—include Mark Zuckerberg, Marc Benioff, Sean Parker, Dustin Moskovitz, Sergey Brin and Larry Page ... Read more


Nov. 29, 2016

Paul English, CEO and Co-Founder of Lola Travel and former CTO and Co-Founder of Kayak, has announced his commitment of at least 10% of his stake in Lola being set aside for giving back to communities locally and globally. Lola is a new kind of travel service that provides real human travel expertise on-demand through a smartphone app. Accel Partners and General Catalyst Partners recently led Lola’s $19.7M Series A round. Kayak was acquired by for $1.8B in 2012; a sale that served as a catalyst for English’s notable local and global philanthropic efforts.

“Joining Pledge 1% Boston was an easy choice for me personally. I have seen the impact giving back can have on communities around the world, and I hope to encourage other entrepreneurs and leaders in technology and related industries to make this pledge. Marc Benioff has done a stellar job sharing the model with other companies and executives, and I am proud to be a voice for Pledge 1% here in the Greater Boston region and beyond,” English shares ... Read more

Paul English Joins Pledge 1% Boston with 10%+ of Stake in Lola Travel

Nov. 29, 2016

Pledge 1% Boston, spearheaded by the Boston Foundation and a network of community leaders, is pleased to announce a new partnership with Life Science Cares. Since launching two months ago, Pledge 1% Boston has recruited almost 20 companies to pledge 1% for their communities. We are excited to parlay this initial success into an alliance with the life sciences community, one of Greater Boston’s most influential sectors. This kind of industry-specific partnership is a new approach for Pledge 1%, and we are excited to be blazing the trail in this region.

The life sciences sector in here is far-reaching and substantial. According to the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, all of the world’s top 10 biopharmaceutical firms maintain facilities in the state. More than 500 other biopharma companies and 400 medical device makers also call Massachusetts home. With this burgeoning and growing economy in our region, we have an opportunity and obligation to connect leaders with the practice of giving back from an early stage ... Read more

Pledge 1% Boston & Life Science Cares Team Up on New Partnership

Oct. 4, 2016

Last Wednesday was a special day in Boston tech and philanthropy. We celebrated the launch of Pledge 1% Boston, a joint initiative powered by the Boston Foundation and TUGG (Technology Underwriting Greater Good).

Pledge 1% Boston is the regional initiative of the global Pledge 1% movement, which catalyzes startups and other innovation economy players to make supporting their communities integral to what they do. By pledging a small portion of their future success today, companies can have an enormous impact.

Pledge 1% Boston encourages and challenges founders and CEOs to pledge 1% of equity ( either personal or company equity), product, and employee time for their communities, and help put that intent into action. ... Read more


Sept. 28, 2016

We at Accomplice pledge to give 1% of our carry to TUGG nonprofits InnerCity Weightlifting and Resilient Coders. They’re two Boston-based organizations fighting to bring social and economic equality to under-resourced youth, and they’ve done amazing work.

The Pledge 1% campaign asks startup employees to commit to giving 1% of their equity, time, or product to nonprofits in their community. It’s a pledge to pay it forward if you become successful.

VC firms don’t have equity the same way that startups do, so we give our employees carried interest (or “carry”) in our funds. Carry is complicated, but think of it as our share of the profits we generate from our company-building and investing efforts.

We’re splitting our 1% pledge between InnerCity Weightlifting (ICW) and Resilient Coders, two nonprofits that started with TUGG and have grown to become part of the Boston tech community and our culture at Accomplice. ... Read more

Accomplice Ventures: Why we're giving up 1% of our carry

Sept. 28, 2016

Jeff Fagnan, founder of Accomplice, a venture capital firm with more than $400 million raised to date, announced Wednesday evening that his company would begin committing one percent of its equity to Resilient Coders and Inner City Weightlifting, Boston Foundation grantees that teach computer coding, other life skills and weight lifting, respectively, to underserved youth of color.

The announcement came at the launch event for Pledge 1% Boston, a new regional chapter of Pledge 1%, a national corporate philanthropy movement dedicated to making new stakeholders in support of local communities. Pledge 1% encourages and challenges individuals and companies to pledge 1% of equity, product, and employee time for their communities.

The Boston Foundation, along with partners TUGG Boston, Accomplice, and the Greenlight Fund, serves as the facilitator of Pledge 1% Boston.  The Boston Foundation, the national Pledge 1% organization, and Cambridge Community Foundation co-hosted Wednesday’s event at The Davenport building in Cambridge, which houses Accomplice and HubSpot, among other companies.


Venture capitalist announces major commitment at local launch of Pledge 1% Boston

Dec. 1, 2015

Pledge 1% empowers companies to dedicate 1 percent of employee time, equity, product or profit to improve communities around the world

Companies such as DocuSign, Glassdoor, Lookout, Twilio, Xactly and Zuora commit to making the community a key stakeholder in their businesses

Pledge 1% founding partners Atlassian, Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado, Rally for Impact and set goal of securing 1,000 new pledges in the next year.

Pledge 1%, a corporate philanthropy movement founded by Atlassian, Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado, Rally for Impact and, announced today that more than 500 companies have joined the Pledge 1% movement in its first year—including high-growth companies such as DocuSign, Glassdoor, Lookout, Twilio, Xactly and Zuora. By pledging 1 percent of employee time, equity, product or profit, these 500+ companies have committed to making the community a key stakeholder in their businesses. Pledge 1% plans to secure 1,000 new pledges in the next year, reaching 1,500 pledges by #GivingTuesday 2016, as a way to activate social impact in communities globally. ... Read more

More than 500 Companies Join Pledge 1% Movement in First Year