How Corporate Funding Helps Fill Community Needs Government's Greatest Asset? stock art

another $100 million has been invested to help libraries sustain the original technology.

More recently the foundation worked with libraries to replace outdated computers through its Opportunity Online Hardware Grant Program. The program's objective is to help the 40 percent of U.S. public libraries still struggling to provide technology services and access to computers and the Internet. The program also seeks to support libraries by making sure their equipment is up to date.

"We like to see public libraries replacing their workstations every four years. ... We offer a grant to provide 75 percent of the dollars to replace a certain number of computers, and the library provides 25 percent for the first year," Nishi explained. "The second year, there is a second phase in which we provide 50 percent of the value of the computers and the jurisdiction has to raise the other 50 percent."

However, once the equipment is updated, it's up to local agencies to ensure that the improvements are sustained.

"This is a nice opportunity to make government officials aware of the opportunity that these grants create," Nishi said. "I think that we see our role as being kind of a catalyst for change -- with an initial infusion of dollars, but we are very reliant on state and local government to continue our efforts in the long term."

Setting a Good Example

Salesforce.com, a software-as-a-service vendor, is another IT company that has integrated philanthropy into its corporate mission.

"We consider ourselves innovators," said Suzanne DiBianca, executive director of the Salesforce.com Foundation. "Our intent was to create a new kind of company that held philanthropy as a core philosophy and not an afterthought. We feel that part of the responsibility of business is to take care of stakeholders, not just shareholders."

To deliver on this philosophy, CEO Marc Benioff developed his own style of corporate giving: 1 percent of employee time, 1 percent of equity and 1 percent of products are set aside to help nonprofits' missions.

Consistent with that philanthropy model is the awareness of the public sector's role in providing services. By using the Salesforce.com software, not only can nonprofits streamline expenditure recording, but also the supervising agencies have more efficient and effective ways of tracking where these dollars are spent. As a result, DiBianca said, more money can be directed toward services and less for expenses such as IT hardware and IT staff.

 

Suzane Bricker  |  Contributing Writer
Suzane Bricker has extensive experience as a grant writer for educational institutions and social services agencies, and has secured funding for her own nonprofit organization in south Florida. She has a master's degree in mass communication with a minor emphasis in science writing.