Big Grants Snared In Google Impact Challenge

June 5, 2014       The NonProfit Times      

The votes are in, all 191,000-plus of them: Google will give four San Francisco Bay area nonprofits, the winners of the search giant’s fourth Impact Challenge, grants of $500,000 each. Six more nonprofits will each get $250,000 grants, and 15 will receive $100,000 each.

Voters chose Hack the Hood, Center for Employment Opportunities, The Health Trust and Bring Me A Book out of a total pool of more than 1,000 proposals. Between May 22 and June 2, 191,504 people casted votes for the 10 finalists. Six community advisers, including Google.org Director Jacqueline Fuller and former major league pitcher Barry Zito (most recently of the San Francisco Giants), chose the top 25 proposals based on community impact, ingenuity, scalability and feasibility, according to a Google spokesperson.

The Bay Area challenge is the fourth since the program began in the United Kingdom last year. It then expanded to India and Brazil, and will next return to the U.K this summer. Google has granted $16.5 million through Impact Challenges.

“The aim of the Challenge was to search for the most innovative ideas for making Bay Area communities an even better place to live,” according to a release from The Health Trust, based in San Jose, Calif. “The Health Trust was chosen as a finalist for our inventive approaches to make affordable, quality, nutritious food accessible in low-income neighborhoods.”

The Health Trust will use its grant to expand healthy food distribution to low-income areas. It plans to distribute 50,000 pounds of food to 10,000 people over the next two years through its Good. To Go. campaign. Hack the Hood of Oakland, Calif., will expand its summer camp training program for high school students over two years. It will offer the program year-round instead of six weeks, and will expand access to the program from 20 students to 5,000.

Digital literacy and e-books are the Mountain Lakes, Calif.-based Bring Me A Book’s focus for its grant. The organization will expand its Digital4Literacy program to distribute tablets packed with e-books and learning apps to 432 preschoolers over three years.

“This Google challenge will help bring the innovative edge into the preschool sector and help us think about how we use media to support preschoolers and their families in having better access to books,” said executive director Mialisa Bonta. “We’re really excited about it and I think it’s a game changer for Bring Me A Book and for digital literacy. Our total operations budget hovers in the realm of $1 million so a grant of this size is definitely transformational. I would call it a tipping point.”

The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), which provides transitional and full-time jobs for the recently incarcerated, will expand into the city of San Jose and Santa Clara County while implementing new technology aimed at increasing the efficiency of the work crews and its own processes over two years, said California director Bill Heiser. CEO is headquartered in New York City and based locally in Oakland, Calif.

The technology platform will be “wholly new, and we’re really excited about it,” said Heiser. “It’s got the possibility to be a new frontier for us in terms of how we integrate the behavioral lessons we’re trying to achieve as well as provide greater feedback while (workers are) on the crews. It will also help us improve our efficiencies.”

In addition to the grants, all 25 grantees will receive one year of technical support from Google and one year of support from Impact Hub SF, a shared workspace and nonprofit community. Bonta and Heiser said grant details and a distribution timeline have not been worked out yet, and a Google spokesperson said the timelines depend on the nature of the project, the community and the organization.