Facebook launches local community fund

Grants available for Belle Haven and East Palo Alto nonprofit services

Here comes the best news local nonprofits might hear during a time of gutted budgets: Facebook wants to give them money.

Nonprofits serving Belle Haven and East Palo Alto may now apply for grants from Facebook's new local community fund. With $500,000 in seed funding from the social networking company, the fund will award $3,000 to $5,000 to 501c3 nonprofits providing services to Belle Haven in Menlo Park, and to East Palo Alto.

With administrative help from the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, a community board of directors will review applications and make the final grant decisions. Serving on the board are Susan Gonzales, head of community engagement at Facebook; Sara Sperling, Facebook; Annette Reavis, Facebook; Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith; and Laura Martinez, mayor of East Palo Alto. City attorneys selected the city representatives to serve two-year terms.

Ms. Gonzales said that while nonprofits don't have to be located within either community, they must provide services there. "From our perspective, this is a local community fund designed to further develop our relationships with our neighbors. Feeding this fund with $500,000 will allow us to begin the process of working towards an understanding of what the needs are in the community. We will evaluate its success and impact and then determine future funding."

She emphasized that the fund is designed specifically for the two immediate neighbors of Facebook's headquarters Belle Haven and East Palo Alto.

The two cities have slightly different emphases for their grant programs. For East Palo Alto, the grants will support nonprofits that provide computer and social media training, organizations that provide evening and weekend programs for 13- to18-year-old kids, and groups that provide scholarships to college-bound students.

"We're looking for nonprofits who serve East Palo Alto residents, nonprofits who may be located here and with good track records, who might be willing to collaborate with other nonprofits," said Mayor Martinez.

Menlo Park, on the other hand, hopes to fund all types of services to Belle Haven. "I'm excited to see what kind of response we get, and excited to see the benefits to nonprofits in our area who are already helping out in Belle Haven," said Mayor Keith. "They're suffering so much because of the economy. We're just hoping to help these nonprofits continue to function and keep doing their work."

Applying is meant to be as easy as possible, according to Ms. Gonzales. Public agencies are not eligible. Applicants should describe the program, including details about what the funding would support, and include a history of the nonprofit and its programs. The first round of grants will be awarded by Dec. 31. Contact the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation for more information.

Application information

To apply, contact the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation:


Like this comment
Posted by Sam S,
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 23, 2012 at 5:23 pm

This is a very good move on their part. Sets up good community relations. Some of those Silicon Valley companies do very little local philanthropy.

Let's hope the grants are based on merit as opposed to "who you know."

1 person likes this
Posted by Boardermom
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Oct 29, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Providing grants of $3,000 to $5,000 is an insult to these communities and a mere token from Facebook. $3K gets you funding for a volunteer appreciation luncheon or software for 5 users. It does not provide any real funding to the community. I hope the Menlo Park City Council takes input from local non-profits of what their view of meaningful non-profit funding is. For many serious grant writers, it is not worth the time to write a grant for a hoped for $3,000. Facebook should be providing grants in amounts in excess of $10,000, with a major grant, way beyond 5 figures, going to the local school system. Shame on FB for being so cheap and shame on MP City Council for agree to allowing such a pittance.

Like this comment
Posted by Trick or treat
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 29, 2012 at 2:57 pm

It is always whom you know.

Facebook is giving much bigger chunks of money to local nonprofits when there are other connections. (See, for example, the school foundations.) However, they were besieged by organizations that came knocking as soon as Facebook came to town, and I guess decided that setting aside a pool of money was the best way to handle the riffraff among the 501(c)(3)s.

For those of you paying attention: Facebook is going before the council tonight to ask for another density giveaway. The cost to the rest of us: a lot more traffic and a requirement to add even more housing. If $500,000 buys them enough goodwill so that their plan gets council approval, well, then it was a bargain for them.

Like this comment
Posted by Boardermom
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Oct 30, 2012 at 12:56 pm

It is my understanding that they are not giving larger grants to the local school foundations. Ravenswood Education Foundation needs at least $100,000 or $250,000 to repair the District's infrastructure. Not speaking for anyone other than myself, but I believe Facebook can do more and hope that both City Council's will ask them to do so.

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