The Disconnect Between Silicon Valley Nonprofits and Philanthropists

Photo courtesy of Patrick Nouhailler


The report, Giving Code: Silicon Valley Nonprofits and Philanthropy, examines the current status of nonprofits and trends of philanthropists in the Silicon Valley area. While much of the data is not new, the report documents the growing disconnect between local needs and how local donors are approaching their giving.

Some of the data in the report on community needs are not surprising:

  • The middle-class jobs and the middle-class itself is disappearing.
  • Hunger is a growing problem with 30% of Silicon Valley public school students receiving free or reduced lunch.

Giving is changing: bigger and trendy!

  • In 2015, Silicon Valley Community Foundation had $7.3 billion in assets and gave out $75.4 million to local groups. Fidelity and Schwab’s donor-advised fund programs received $432M and gave $91 million with $61 million going to local community-based organizations.
  • The authors then talks about a giving version 3.0, that is, an emerging giving code that is much in-lined with the characteristics of the area:

The new donors described in this report are building on the last several decades of innovations and learning, further disrupting traditional models of giving, and hoping to achieve transformational change through their philanthropy. Members of this next wave seem to share a genuine desire to change how the world and whole systems work—and the hubris to think that they can succeed, because through their companies, they already have.

Nonprofits and philanthropists are disconnected:

  • Donors want to solve social problems and want to see outcomes and data but they don’t always take into consideration the complexities of social change or want to invest in the resources to measure results they are asking for
  • Silicon Valley is all about innovation and scale (disrupt, displace or reinvent) but donors don’t take the time to understand the issues and learn from local leaders serving the beneficiaries
  • Donors want to connect and be hands on with their giving and they give to what they know  – which most of the time is their children’s school, where they have direct relationships and within their networks. Community-based organizations see this as a challenge as they do not have the networks to connect with these donor or the capacity to engage them in ways that meet their needs.
  • Donor giving is diversified (giving vehicles, where they give, what they give to) and community organizations have to understand the many layers, including making the case for support so they can become part of the donor’s portfolio.

The authors recommend ways for donors and local organizations to understand each other, find learning opportunities, invest in capacity-building and create new models for cross-sector collaboration.

I highly recommend reading the complete report instead of the executive summary as you will get a better understanding of the unique social factors and donor practices in this area.

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