Google and Corporate Philanthropy

Google announced today that Google.org will be launching soon, following through on their promise to launch and philanthropic arm of the company. Clearly, this is good news and the Google Foundation will help (and already has helped) millions of people. But I have a few concerns:

  • Timing – Where was this a few years ago? It’s important for integrated corporate philanthropy to be woven into a company’s mission from the start. The status quo cannot be "once we have our IPO and make billions, we’ll start donating to charity."
  • Focus – So far they are giving a few million here and a few million there. From the Make a Wish Foundation to Doctors Without Borders. A total of 850 different nonprofit organizations have already received grants. Will they be able to monitor the social impact across all these different areas? Will there be a guiding social mission of the Foundation? In many ways this mirrors the for-profit business….
  • Staffing – They’ve already given away millions of dollars, but they say "We are working on staffing as well as defining the goals, priorities, and principles of Google.org." Wait – don’t you do that BEFORE giving away the money? Who’s overseeing the follow-through of the grants?

Again, this is fundamentally a *great* thing, but I also think we want to hold non-profits to a higher standard than simple applause for doing good. Particularly when it’s a philanthropic arm of a for-profit corporation, there is no excuse to not run a tight, results-oriented organization. This means getting the right people on the bus before driving it and making sure each dollar is accounted for.

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