Behind the rapid growth of the , now the largest community foundation in the country, is a long-term strategy to become as cutting-edge as the ventures that have turned many of its Silicon Valley donors into billionaires, the reports.
A product of the 2006 merger of the Peninsula Community Foundation and the Community Foundation Silicon Valley, SVCF today boasts $4.7 billion in assets and ranks twelfth among the nation's wealthiest foundations. And while it has been in the headlines recently thanks to gifts valued at nearly $1.5 billion from Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, those gifts are the capstone of a multiyear strategy to provide "customized philanthropy services" to wealthy tech companies and entrepreneurs in the area, the Chronicle reports. The strategy has been so successful, in fact, that SVCF staff currently work part-time at the headquarters of Hewlett Packard, Juniper, StubHub, and other corporations in the valley, earning consulting fees that have grown significantly in recent years.
In addition, the foundation has boosted its visibility through a series of strategic moves, including the acquisition of the Entrepreneurs' Foundation in 2012; the decision to offer advice to the founders of successful tech startups with respect to the structuring of their pre-IPO stock donations; and the launch of a that — for a 10 percent transaction fee — enables individuals to make an online donation to any one of hundreds of vetted organizations working overseas. The foundation also has agreed to take over the back-office functions of the and may seek other such arrangements.
The foundation is not without its critics, however, who note that 45 percent of its grants were distributed to groups outside the Bay Area last year and who argue that the foundation has compromised its support for the needy at a time when tensions in the region between rich and poor are escalating. Emmett D. Carson, the foundation's CEO, told the Chronicle he was optimistic such criticism will fade as area residents come to understand that, by working to customize its clients charitable-giving plans, the foundation is generating new revenue while at the same time steering resources toward important community needs as well as national and global causes.
"What makes us worth watching isn't that we have an asset size," said Carson, "it's the influence and the advocacy work we now get to leverage."