Facebook’s success has led to gentrification and hardship in some towns close to its Menlo Park headquarters. So while the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has committed more than $45 billion to solving health and education problems worldwide, today it’s strengthening its hyper-local philanthropy.
The new CZI Community Fund will provide $25,000 to $100,000 grants to nonprofits and nonprofit or municipality-backed organizations working to improve education, housing, homelessness, immigration, transportation and workforce development in Belle Haven, East Palo Alto, North Fair Oaks and Redwood City, California. For reference, the average rent in East Palo Alto just two miles from Facebook HQ went up 24 percent in the past year alone.
“The Bay Area is our home. We love our community and are so proud to be raising our two daughters here,” writes CZI co-founder Priscilla Chan, Mark Zuckerberg’s wife. “But listening to the stories from our local leaders and neighbors, there is still a lot of work to do.”
The CZI has already backed some local projects, including criminal justice reform in California, and put $5 million toward Y Combinator startup Landed that helps school teachers pay for home down payments in districts close to Facebook HQ. It also donated $3.1 million to Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto that helps families impacted by the local housing shortage who need legal protection, in some cases from wrongful evictions. Plus CZI put $500,000 into the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley to develop long-term answers to the regional housing crisis.
Organizations seeking funding from the CZI Community Fund can apply before December 1. They’ll be evaluated on the basis of alignment with the fund’s mission, impact potential, leadership, collaboration with other organizations, community engagement and fiscal responsibility to ensure funds aren’t wasted on overhead.
Back in 2014, TechCrunch advocated for more of this hyper-local philanthropy by tech companies. At the time, Google was helping to pay for free bus passes for kids trying to get to school, after-school programs and work.
While tech giants can have global impact with scalable apps, the high salaries they pay can lead to rising housing and living prices in nearby areas. That’s fine for their employees, but can cause trouble for lower-income residents as well as the contractors these corporations employ to run their cafeterias or sweep their floors.
There are certainly worthy causes everywhere, and some in the developing world, like anti-malaria mosquito nets, can do a lot of good for a low price. But if tech companies want to be seen as good neighbors and offset the damage they do to nearby communities, they need to give back locally, not just globally.