DigitalOcean Case Study

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DigitalOcean Case Study

Restructuring Employee Referrals to Drive Engagement in Workplace Philanthropy

About DigitalOcean

DigitalOcean (DO) provides a platform that developers love and engineering teams trust to build, deploy and scale applications in the cloud. With 60% growth YoY, DO is a high-growth startup that serves a passionate community of more than one million users. From its founding, the company has placed enormous value on employee experience and engagement.

One of the best illustrations of how DigitalOcean has ensured its active and engaged employee base has been to attract top talent through its employee referral program. In 2017, 40% of DO’s new hires have been referrals.

DigitalOcean and Bright Funds


With no formalized corporate citizenship program prior to 2016, DigitalOcean aimed to launch a workplace giving program that would align with, as well as amplify, its company culture and talent acquisition efforts. At the core of DigitalOcean’s company culture is a stated commitment to building and supporting community. Therefore, the team sought a way to more formally engage DO employees in both giving and volunteering.


In early 2017, DigitalOcean decided to take a closer look at its employee referrals program, focusing specifically on how they incentivized and rewarded their employees. In May 2017, Olivia Melman, Recruiting Operations Program Manager, partnered with Bright Funds to launch a new employee referral incentive strategy that would highlight DO’s community commitment as well as build upon the successes of its existing employee referral strategy. The main objectives of the program were to encourage individual philanthropy, increase employee engagement, and harness the demonstrated positive outcomes of the hiring referral program for social good.  

Bright Funds worked closely with Olivia to develop creative strategies that would ensure a successful launch. The teams prioritized working together to develop and roll out the robust Personal Referral/Credit Grants plan to reward employee involvement. For Bright Funds’ partners, credit grants are one of the most utilized and effective features for driving participation on the platform and thus was a logical use case for the reimagination of DO’s referral program. “Partnering with Bright Funds allowed us to automate the charitable contribution of our new Referrals payout structure. When a DO employee’s referral is hired, they complete a quick Google Form that funnels directly to the Bright Funds team. Bright Funds then schedules, releases, and reminds employees of their credit grants, keeping me informed all along the way,” said Olivia.

Program Details

In May 2017, DigitalOcean launched its new referrals incentive structure. Now, for each referral candidate who is hired, the referring employee receives a $3,500 Referral Bonus in addition to a $1,500 charitable donation paid by DigitalOcean on the employee’s behalf via Bright Funds.

If the employee chooses to contribute an additional portion of the payout to charity, DO will match that added donation. For additional donations of $500 or more, the employee is automatically entered into the annual “Golden Ticket Raffle” – the winner of which is awarded an all-expenses paid trip to thank them for their philanthropic contributions. “We also recognize participating employees in real time during our company all-hands meetings and in our referrals newsletter” Olivia explained, “there’s no need to wait until year-end to acknowledge our employees commitment to community.”


By using Credit Grants to empower employees to create and use cause-based Funds and encouraging recurring donations, DigitalOcean was able to reach an impressive 43% participation rate (>4x above industry standard) in the the Golden Ticket Raffle.

Matt Hoffman, VP of People at DigitalOcean, said about the success of the program, “One of our core values at DO is “our community is bigger than just us.” The partnership with Bright Funds allows us to live that value by helping our employees support a charitable organization in a community that has personal meaning to them. It’s a powerful statement about what we care about as a company, and an important reason that so many talented people choose to join DO and then refer their friends and colleagues to us as well.”

Download the Case Study here

Bright Funds

Bright Funds