Tech companies based in Santa Clara County earn billions in revenue but only donate a tiny portion to local nonprofits as social inequality in one of the country’s wealthiest counties worsens.
A review by San José Spotlight of donations from several Santa Clara County-based tech companies shows these corporations gave a fraction of 1% of their revenue to local charities last year. While recipients say these funds support efforts to aid their communities, local advocates argue big tech should focus more on their own backyards, where the gap between the wealthy and poor continues to grow.
San José Spotlight requested donation figures from six local tech companies: Cisco, Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe and Zoom. These corporations reported a combined $770.6 billion in gross revenue in 2021, enough to pay market rate rents for a one-bedroom apartment and provide three daily meals for every unhoused person in Santa Clara County for more than 2,000 years. The latest count shows 10,028 homeless people living in the county.
Only four companies—Zoom, Google, Intel and Adobe—provided information on their local charitable donations last year, totaling more than $72.2 million. All of these companies shared between 0.01% and 0.03% of their revenues with local nonprofits last year.
“Silicon Valley is the homeless capital of Northern California and we’re the wealthiest place on the planet—how do those two go together?” said Scott Myers-Lipton, a sociology professor at San Jose State University and author of the Silicon Valley Pain Index, a compilation of statistics measuring the state of inequality in the South Bay.
Part of the answer, he said, is because tech companies don’t share enough of their riches.
Tech companies’ market influence is part of the reason why the cost of living in Silicon Valley has risen exponentially in recent decades, Myers-Lipton said, because wealthy tech workers have crowded the housing market and driven up prices of nearly everything.
Many tech companies doubled their wealth during the pandemic, while homeless populations and food insecurity continued to grow across the region. Tech leaders have complained about the presence of homeless residents in their neighborhoods, yet large tech companies have frequently fought against tax measures that would help fund government efforts to stem homelessness.
Myers-Lipton experienced this firsthand six years ago when he pushed for a business tax to help mitigate the fallout of inflation and the housing crisis. His version of the bill would have taxed companies based on revenue, but Myers-Lipton said tech giants Adobe and Cisco fought it. The resulting compromise, Measure G, taxed businesses based on the size of their employee pool instead.
Myers-Lipton said his version of the bill would’ve brought in significantly more revenue to support affordable housing initiatives.
“These high tech folks that have become wealthy don’t have the same culture of giving that other millionaires and billionaires of the past have of giving money,” Myer-Lipton said.
A closer look
San Jose-based video conference company Zoom committed about 0.03% of its $2.6 billion gross revenue to local nonprofits in 2021. Of the $11 million the company donated to charities worldwide, $610,000 went to a dozen Bay Area nonprofits. Zoom plans to donate an additional $750,000 to local nonprofits this year, a company representative said.
Software developer Adobe, also based in San Jose, reported $15.8 billion in revenue in 2021, about 0.03% of which went to San Jose charities. The company donated $95.5 million dollars to nonprofits worldwide in 2021. Of that, $4.5 million went to San Jose organizations, a company representative said. Adobe employees contributed an additional 3,555 volunteer hours to local nonprofits. A total of 460 local organizations received cash donations or volunteer hours from employees. .
Google’s parent company, Alphabet, reported $257.6 billion in gross revenue last year. Of that, the Mountain View-based giant donated $324 million globally, and $57.7 million went to Bay Area-based organizations—or about 0.02% of its gross revenue.
A company representative could not provide donation figures specific to Santa Clara County or San Jose, but stressed that Google’s contributions to local initiatives go beyond cash donations. Google committed $1 billion in 2019 to build 15,000 homes on company-owned land around the Bay Area and to support organizations fighting homelessness, the representative said. The company is also in the process of building 4,000 homes in San Jose as part of its Downtown West development. A quarter of those homes will be affordable.
Of the companies that provided donations figures, Microchip manufacturer Intel Corporation shared the least of its total revenue with local nonprofits—about 0.01%.
Santa Clara-based Intel reported $79 billion in gross revenue in 2021. The company gave $75 million to nonprofits and schools worldwide, a company representative said. Intel donated $9.4 million to Bay Area nonprofit groups. The company could not provide more localized donations figures.
Cisco and Apple did not provide local donations data.
Donations used for good
Recipients of grants from some of these companies included homeless advocacy groups, racial justice organizations and education assistance programs.
Ann Watts, executive director of Starting Arts, a San Jose-based nonprofit that teaches fine arts to local school children, said Adobe’s grants were “a lifesaver” during the pandemic.
The funds allowed Starting Arts to develop instructional videos teaching children music, dance and theater as area schools locked down and transitioned to remote learning.
“We feel very fortunate that we were able to to receive this funding,” Watts told San José Spotlight. “I’m hoping they do it again.”
Gisela Bushey, CEO of Loaves & Fishes Family Kitchen, a nonprofit that provides meals to some of the South Bay’s more than 1 million food-insecure residents, said her organization is able to provide these meals thanks in part to donations from companies like Cisco.
“Is there room to do more? Absolutely,” Bushey said, but stressed the issue is larger than just tech company donations. American culture in general needs to acknowledge and act on the systemic forces that cause poverty and food insecurity, she said.
Until then, Bushey said she’s happy to use whatever tech companies will offer to help keep local residents fed.
“I don’t see anybody throwing several billion dollars our way,” she said. “That’s not how it works, unfortunately.”