Google Impact Challenge

Google Brings Nonprofit Funding to the Polls

The tech giant has revealed 10 Bay Area organizations that are eligible to receive up to $500,000 in funding. The only catch is that the final decision about the breadth of funding will be determined by a vote.

Google is best known for its tech endeavors, but its nonprofit wing,, is making an impact of its own.

The organization aims to use technology to tackle problems ranging from renewable energy to crisis response. It’s responsible for Made with Code, a program that encourages girls to pursue coding; and Crisis Response, a platform that helps victims and first responders get information during natural disasters.

Now is also going local with its initiatives. The Google Impact Challenge is awarding funding to local organizations in San Francisco, France, Japan, Australia, Brazil, India, and the United Kingdom.

More than 800 nonprofit organizations in the Bay Area applied. Then, an advisory panel that included notable figures like former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Golden State Warriors forward Harrison Barnes selected 10 finalists. The local community will now have the opportunity to choose four winners, who will each receive $500,000.

Each of the other six finalists will receive $250,000. Additionally, 15 other nonprofits selected by the advisory panel will all get $150,000. In total, Google will award $5 million in grants through the campaign.

Social Startups

In addition to the grants, all 25 of the funded nonprofits will receive ongoing support from Google, as well as access to Impact Hub, a local coworking space.

Google’s approach to funding nonprofits is closer to venture capital investing than traditional grant funding. That, of course, is purposeful. Director Jacquelline Fuller has advocated for a startup mentality since taking over in 2007.

“Whether it’s eradicating disease or transforming education, we need to encourage the same mentality in social entrepreneurs by funding early-stage ideas with great potential,” she writes in Fast Company. “The social sector needs risk capital; governments and traditional funders often can’t play this role.”

Grants Plus Google

Local Impact Challenges take place in cities and countries where Google has offices. By asking local organizations to pitch their ideas and then letting the public vote to determine the winners, Google ensures that the community is on board with the projects.

This is especially important in the Bay Area, where Google’s Mountain View headquarters has drawn scrutiny from area residents. Attracted by high-paying jobs, engineers and other tech folks have flocked to the area, driving up real estate prices and accelerating gentrification. Some residents have protested the company’s fast growth and its effect on the community, particularly the use of private buses that shuttle employees from San Francisco to Mountain View. Protestors call the buses a “prominent symbol of growing inequality in the Bay.”

The Impact Challenge is one of the ways Google is trying to earn the trust of local residents as the company continues to expand. It’s estimated that Google could hire as many as 30,000 new employees in the Bay Area over the next few years.

The programs Google funds will support women with family members in prison, help inner city students stay in school, and make legal help available to those in need.

Get Out the Vote

Bay Area residents can vote online or at interactive bus stops.

Voting ends on October 20, and the results will be announced the following day.

Jimmy Daly

By Jimmy Daly

Jimmy is a writer, editor and outdoorsman. He also publishes a weekly newsletter with inspiration and insight for creatives. MORE

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