California Techies Find Philanthropy (Silicon Valley)

  • Local Projects
  • 2014

Despite the enormous amount of money sloshing through Silicon Valley, and the high-profile giving of families like the Packards, Hewletts, and Moores, our tech heartland has traditionally been a comparatively low-donating area. Until just the last few years, the community foundation covering Silicon Valley (San Mateo and Santa Clara counties) trailed well behind community foundations in places like Tulsa and Kansas City in total benefactions. That began to change in recent years, and by 2014 the Silicon Valley Community Foundation became the largest in the nation.

Most of the SVCF’s recent expansion is thanks to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. In 2012 they placed in their donor-advised fund 18 million Facebook shares that were then valued at $500 million, and worth about a billion dollars a year later. Late in 2013 they gave another 18 million shares. The $100 million the couple had earlier pledged to Newark school reform was also channeled through the foundation, pushing their total personal boost to foundation assets to more than $2 billion. There have been a few other megadonors to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation as well, like former eBay head Jeff Skoll, who has given about $500 million. GoPro founder Nick Woodman and his wife, Jill, gave another to the SVCF when they donated shares worth $500 million in late 2014.

Of course most giving in Silicon Valley, as everywhere else in America, is made through direct donations, not through any community-foundation structure. Whatever form the donating takes, though, there is clear evidence that typical residents of Silicon Valley give far less to charity, especially on an income-adjusted basis, than Americans in most other places. (See “Who Gives Most to Charity” near the end of this book.)

The Silicon Valley Community Foundation is also a less home-oriented version than most counterparts across the nation, with a comparatively high proportion of its funds being directed to national or international causes. Nonetheless, a slight majority of its spending is done in the counties where it is based. It funnels about 40 percent of its grants into education. Health care, economic security, and immigrant integration are other significant priorities.