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Facebook Uses Digital Verification to Protect Corporate Giving Program

Facebook uses digital verification to implement CodeFWD, a program that introduces underserved youth to computer programming.

Facebook Uses Digital Verification to Protect Corporate Giving Program

When it comes to corporate philanthropy, most brands don’t have to worry about reaching the right people. They just identify the person or organization they want to support, and the organization delivers their donation to them directly.

But what if the only way to help a specific group is through the professionals and organizations who are trained to support them? How can you be sure your donation goes only to those who are qualified to do the work you want?

Facebook recently faced this dilemma when they launched CodeFWD, a free online program that gives underrepresented students the opportunity to experience the joy of computer programming. To accomplish this, the company had to make sure the resources to run the program went only to teachers and non-profits who were prepared to help the youth.

It was an arduous task, but Facebook wasn’t about to let it stop them from making a difference in the lives of the kids they wanted to reach.

Changing the Face of Technology

America is a melting pot, but most tech companies don’t reflect that. Forbes reports that “a whopping 76% of technical jobs are held by men, and blacks and Latinos only make up 5% of the workforce.”

Facebook recognized that recruiting is only part of the problem. Preparing a diverse population to enter the workforce is just as important.  According to, 78% of high school students taking the Advanced Placement exam in Computer Science are men, while only 22% are women and 13% are students of color.

CodeFWD is attacking this inequity by giving teachers and non-profits a curriculum that starts with the fundamentals of computer programming and culminates in a chance for the kids to program robots from Sphero, makers of the animatronic BB-8 Star Wars toys.

There’s only one hitch: while the robots are wildly popular, they’re not cheap. The BOLT Power Pack is a classroom set of 15 robots valued at $2,499, and there are only so many available.

SheerID's teacher verification and non-profit verification solutions ensure that the Sphero robots reach the right audience.

Getting Robots into the Right Hands with Code FWD

Facebook knew the robots would be a big prize, so the company positioned them as a reward for completing three phases of learning:

  1. I DO – a short video for program facilitators that helps them prepare lessons that will drive student interest and motivate continued exploration.
  2. WE DO – an engaging classroom activity for teachers and students that assesses learning.
  3. YOU DO – a hands-on opportunity that tests students’ knowledge and puts their new understanding of computer programming to work.

Once teachers complete these milestones, they can take students’ coding skills to the next level by applying for the free robots. And given the limited supply of expensive robots, ensuring applicants are who they say they are is a critical step.

To verify that an applicant is a credentialed teacher or 501(c)(3) staff member, Facebook turned to SheerID’s Digital Verification Platform.

Using Digital Verification to Secure Corporate Giving Programs

Brand marketers looking to create exclusive promotions that fuel a bigger mission can use gated offers to reach their target group.

Gated offers rely on digital verification to confirm that someone is actually a member of the group — in this case teachers and non-profit facilitators who are educating underrepresented youth. Using SheerID’s teacher verification and non-profit verification solutions helped Facebook eliminate the risk of fraudulent applications that would undercut CodeFWD’s mission of reaching underserved students.

At the heart of digital verification is trust: participants can trust a program is truly exclusive, while brands can be confident their programs won’t be abused.

Facebook wanted that confidence. Here’s how they used digital verification to get it:

  • Once facilitators complete the necessary learning steps and submit an application, SheerID uses authoritative data sources to verify an applicant is a teacher or part of a non-profit.
  • Verification occurs instantly, as a seamless part of the in-brand application process.
  • Facebook provides the robots to eligible participants with the confidence that their offer is reaching the audience it’s intended for — people and programs committed to inspiring kids from underserved groups.
SheerID's teacher verification and student verification solutions prevent unqualified individuals from taking advantage of Facebook's CodeFWD program.

Using SheerID’s Digital Verification Platform allows Facebook to focus exclusively on implementing the program because it eliminates the burden of having to manually verify applicants, which can be time consuming and error-prone. It streamlines the company’s efforts, maximizes their resources, and limits their exposure to fraud.

Digital verification also supports Facebook’s measured approach to successfully launching CodeFWD. Knowing the free robots are reaching the right people gives the company confidence that eligibility won’t be an issue as the program grows.

The Payoff

Digital verification removes a potential obstacle to delivering the robots to teachers and students, and that’s when the real fun begins.

Once they receive the robots, teachers follow a curriculum provided by Sphero that gives kids hands-on experience ranging from creating “draw” commands to writing JavaScript. Students learn to use block-based JavaScript to make the robots roll in different directions, light up and interact with each other. How cool is that?!

Inclusivity through Exclusivity

Facebook piloted CodeFWD at the Harlem Children’s Zone and Austin’s Latinitas, two organizations dedicated to empowering minority children, and officially launched the program in September.

By engaging youth who might not otherwise see the world of possibility that software programming brings, Facebook is advancing its commitment to hiring a diverse workforce and setting the stage for a world in which all people have access to technology skills that drive today’s culture.

The program’s success will be a boon, not just for Facebook, but for the tech industry at large. Forbes reports that companies ranking in the top quartile of executive-board diversity were 35% likelier to financially outperform the industry medians, and that inclusive teams make better business decisions 87% of the time.

“We know that it’s important to make sure we’re supporting the next generation of diverse talent. It can really widen the pipeline,” Facebook Education’s Director Lauryn Hale Ogbechie said in an interview with TechCrunch. “I think it’s of benefit to any tech company and the industry more broadly.”

Driving inclusivity in engineering from a younger age expresses Facebook’s innovative spirit. But the paradox is that inclusivity hinges on exclusivity. In order to spur a new generation of diverse tech innovators, Facebook needs to gate the offer to guarantee it reaches those students most in need.

By doing so, Facebook is giving students an experience that will free their inherent gifts and change the course of their lives. As Giles Andreae, a children’s author, once said, “We all can dance when we find music we love.”

Want to learn more about how SheerID can work for you?

SheerID’s Digital Verification Platform can help your business reach new audiences with exclusive offers that are secure and effective. Download The Definitive Guide to Gated Offers to learn more.