Google launches $10M grant contest for Bay Area nonprofits
Google headquarters in Mountain View are pictured in this file photo.

    Google on Monday launched a $10 million contest for nonprofits around the Bay Area to win grants ranging between $100,000 and $1 million from its philanthropic arm,

    The contest, called the “Bay Area Impact Challenge,” marks the third time in five years has held the challenge. This year’s awards, however, will go to more organizations and add up to nearly double the amount of past years’ grants.

    Of the 35 expected finalists, five organizations will win $1 million each, and one of those million-dollar winners will be picked by Bay Area residents, according to Jacquelline Fuller, president of

    “The boldest and brightest ideas will be selected as finalists,” Fuller said in a blog post. “Once the finalists are announced, we’ll come together as a community for a public vote on the People’s Choice Award.”

    The remainder of the million-dollar award winners will be chosen by a panel of nine judges, which will include Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Golden State Warriors basketball star Stephen Curry and his wife Ayesha Curry, who is an actress and television personality.

    “I’d love to see someone, or maybe more than one person, in the group of advisers who are familiar with the South Bay,” said Kyra Kazantzis, chief executive officer for the Silicon Valley Council of Nonprofits said in an interview before the panel of judges was released. “I think the last impact challenge there were some really great agencies funded but there weren’t a lot from down here in Silicon Valley and the need is great.”

    Google is accepting applications from now until Nov. 8 and nonprofits can apply here. Winners will be announced in April next year.

    In addition to the five $1 million winners, 25 nonprofits will receive $100,000 and five organizations will get $500,000 each to bring to fruition programs aimed at “making the Bay Area a place where everyone can thrive,” Fuller said.

    Past winners, from 2014 and 2015,  show the contest is open to a wide variety of programs. This will be the first time since 2015 that has held the contest specifically for the Bay Area, though the company has annually held other impact challenges for various issues around the world. In 2015, the grants awarded to Bay Area nonprofits totaled $5.5 million.

    One of the unsung benefits to a competition like the one Google is doing is that it not only helps fund important work, but also “puts the nonprofits who have interesting approaches and have compelling impact statements in front of other donors,” Kazantzis said, a major boon in wealthy Silicon Valley.

    The announcement comes as Google has been especially busy in the South Bay, divvying out multiple new grants and making unprecedented commitments to fund affordable housing as it prepares to submit plans for a new, massive San Jose campus in a city with residents who have mixed emotions about it all.

    Google’s San Jose campus is expected to include about 6.5 million square feet of office space on a sprawling 60-acre campus with thousands of residential units, approximately 500,000 square feet of retail, hotel, cultural and arts space and 15 acres of park land and greenery.

    That formal proposal for the project is set to arrive at San Jose City Hall this month, but Google officials gave San Joseans an early peek at its vision in August.

    Some residents have protested the tech giant’s arrival in the Bay Area’s largest city, primarily due to worries that its entrance will push out existing residents, particularly those who are low-income. In response, Google has promised to invest in job training and creating career “pathways” in San Jose. Other residents have said they are optimistic about Google’s plans for an area adjacent to the city’s busy transit center, Diridon Station, which is expected to get billions of dollars in investment in the coming years.

    Meanwhile, Google this year announced $1 billion housing investment commitment in the Bay Area, where the company is planning to set aside land for housing and make investments in programs and nonprofits that address the region’s housing crisis in the cities where it is growing: San Francisco, Mountain View, Sunnyvale and San Jose.

    The Bay Area Impact Challenge is not part of the $1 billion housing commitment, but part of a larger effort by the company’s philanthropic arm, which has given $250 million in grants to Bay Area nonprofits since 2014, according to Google.

    Kazantzis said she’s excited to see the amount that Google was placing up for bid in the Bay Area for the upcoming contest.

    “We are thrilled to see philanthropy of this size from a corporate foundation,” she said. “Certainly it is a bigger amount than 2015, and that feels right given the challenges in our community have increased since then.”

    Contact Janice Bitters at [email protected] or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

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