Giving Tuesday: How Okta for Good made a positive impact on my life

If you’re familiar with Okta, you’ll know that giving back is an integral part of our company and people. Okta for Good, Okta’s philanthropic arm, is a prime example of how much Okta cares about giving back to our community and world. Okta for Good’s vision is “directing the best of Okta—our people, technology, and financial resources—to the community.”

One of Okta’s core values is to “Empower our people.” This year on Giving Tuesday, Okta for Good empowered our people by giving every full-time employee at least $10 to donate to a cause of their choice. Employees randomly received $10, $20, $50, $100, $500, or $1,000; and one lucky person would receive $5,000 to donate. Giving Tuesday is “a global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world.” It’s a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good.

What happened next was special

I spent Thanksgiving in the mountains in a remote part of Colorado with my family: my 93-year-old grandma, parents, siblings, siblings-in-law, and their three children (ranging from two months to three years) were all there to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company. Unfortunately, by Friday night most of us had caught a very bad virus leaving everyone feeling very ill, to say the least. On top of all of this, a major snow and wind storm hit Colorado the same day, leaving us without power on Saturday. We made it out safely to a hotel near Denver, after having to pack in the dark.

So when Giving Tuesday came around, I was finally starting to feel better but not quite 100%. I came into the office for about an hour to speak at our monthly sales bootcamp, but spent minimal time on my computer.

Early on Wednesday morning, I received an Okta for Good email about Giving Tuesday forwarded from our SVP of commercial sales, David Walters. He added how easy it was to donate and shared that he had donated to a local charity where his wife was a board member. I was still catching up on work throughout the morning when my director, Kevin Aghajani, followed up on top of David’s email asking that our team show our support for Giving Tuesday by reaching 100% participation. Many of my teammates responded with the causes they had donated to.

During lunch, I opened Slack to find every channel with unread messages. I scrolled through the Okta for Good channel and saw posts from employees across the world sharing causes they stood behind. There were also a few posts from curious colleagues wondering who had received the huge $5,000 donation. It was a mystery.

How my “luck” changed on Giving Tuesday

I’m typically not the “luckiest” person. I think that can be seen in my Thanksgiving story—things like that seem to happen often to me. That all changed with this year’s Giving Tuesday.

It was around 2 pm on Wednesday when I decided I should go donate my Giving Tuesday balance, expecting to give $10 somewhere special. When I signed into my Okta for Good Giving Portal (with Okta SSO of course), I found myself in complete disbelief to see a $5,000 balance in my account. It really was one of the greatest feelings I’ve had the chance to experience. This to me was better than winning $5,000 for myself.

I shared the news in a note immediately to my team and Anna Currin (Okta for Good manager of philanthropy and community engagement). Anna and Erin Baudo Felter (executive director of Okta for Good) both responded, in relief, that I had finally found the big prize. Now came the really tough part: deciding where to donate this large amount of money.

So many great causes

There are nearly two million impactful causes on Okta for Good’s Giving Portal. Causes range from disaster relief to environmental protection, care for sick kids, disease research, animal rescue, youth empowerment, and ending world hunger (to name a few).

I spent the next three hours investigating causes to donate to. I also reached out to my family and close friends for recommendations.

In the end, it was too difficult to pick one cause, so I decided to choose ten. I was so touched by the experience that I matched $500 myself to make my total donation funds $5,500.

After hours of research and contemplation, here are the causes I gave to:

  1. Polaris Project ($1,000) They help women who have been kidnapped and put into sex slavery. My eldest sister Colleen has spent most of her career working with non-profits, and she highly recommended the Polaris Project.
  2. Spreetail Foundation ($500) I was raised in Nebraska. When I first started working at Okta, Nebraska was part of my sales territory, and Spreetail was one of the companies that I brought on as an Okta customer. They run a 501(c)(3) foundation that helps build housing for those in need after natural disasters, among other things. When I informed Chad Killpatrick (Head of the Spreetail Foundation) about the donation, he told me that $500 will provide a full and twin mattress for four families. I had previously connected Chad with Okta for Good’s Erin Baudo Felter. After that conversation, Spreetail signed the 1% pledge to commit 1% of their time, product, and equity to giving back.
  3. North Platte Public Schools Foundation ($500 Match) This is the school district I attended for K-12 in Nebraska. My mom was on the Local and State School Board of Education for 16 years. She spent her entire adult life giving to others and encouraged me to think of my roots. North Platte is a less fortunate school district in Western Nebraska and the money will be greatly appreciated.
  4. Conservation Lands Foundation ($500) My sister Brigid is a surgeon in Durango, Colorado, where the Conservation Lands Foundation is based. The foundation helps stop oil drilling, mining, and other development on our treasured protected land in the U.S.
  5. Family House ($500) I volunteered at Family House during my first week at Okta with Okta for Good. New Okta employees continue to volunteer there as a new-employee activity each week and they do a lot of great work with families in need.
  6. San Francisco City Impact ($500) SF City Impact helps people in need in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. They specialize in addiction treatment, which I care a lot about.
  7. John Muir Land Trust ($500) John Muir Land Trust protects land throughout Northern California. I love being in nature and want to do my part to ensure future generations enjoy it the same way I’m able to.
  8. Habitat for Humanity of Omaha ($500) While playing football at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity building homes in some of the poorest neighborhoods of Omaha.
  9. TeamMates Mentoring Program ($500) This is another Nebraska-founded mentoring program that helps connect at-risk youth with college athletes across five Midwest states.
  10. American Red Cross of the California Northwest ($500) Anyone living in Northern California has been impacted by the wildfires in the past few years, some more than others. I saw this cause posted by an employee on the Okta for Good Slack channel, and there is obviously a lot of help needed in the wake of the wildfires.

I’m proud to work for such an amazing company

This was truly a life-changing experience for me. It had an immediate impact on my team as well, who are already planning on volunteering at our sister school in San Francisco this week. When I was younger I spent a lot of time volunteering, but all too often now I’ve had the excuse that I’m too busy to take a day off. Receiving this opportunity on Giving Tuesday reminded me how important it is to give to others. I realize how blessed I am and am going to continue to do my part to help others who can’t say the same.

Okta for Good has always been an integral piece of my Okta experience. Erin, Anna, Adam, Fatima, and all of the people who lead Okta for Good are an amazing group of people. Okta for Good makes me proud to call Okta my home.

I hope this story helps inspire someone to go out and support those in need.

Thank you to our Okta for Good team for creating such an impactful Giving Tuesday experience at Okta! For more information, check out our Okta for Good and Careers pages.