Big Tech's donation dollars

·4 min read

Tech's leading companies — like the rest of corporate America — responded to the murder of George Floyd by police in 2020 in part by pledging to give big to racial justice groups.

  • Our analysis of these companies found that, by and large, Big Tech paid up.

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Why it matters: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have deep enough pockets to make substantial donations and other aid adding up to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Yes, but: Critics of philanthropy say giving can be a way to paper over failures to make real change happen inside boardrooms and workplaces.

Between the lines: Many of the companies have also promised to improve conditions internally for Black employees and prospective hires. The high-dollar donations provide one external gauge to track commitments to change.

Of note: Donations are gifts, but the portion of these commitments that takes the form of investment can have a financial upside for the companies.

Google

What it promised: Shortly after Floyd was killed, Google.org pledged $12 million in donations to racial justice groups, which grew to $320 million in commitments from Google and YouTube in the last year.

How it works: These pledges took the form of direct donations, ad grants and technical support. Google also invested $60 million in Black-led startups and venture capital firms, with plans to invest another $40 million by the end of the year.

What they did: The Center for Policing Equity was one of the first groups Google said would receive a $1 million donation.

  • Through a partnership with Google.org, Google’s philanthropy arm, CPE launched Justice Navigator in September, which provides data on use of force incidents and vehicle and pedestrian stops, with recommendations on how to use the assessments to advocate for change.

Microsoft

What it promised: Microsoft says it has committed $246 million toward racial justice efforts since Floyd’s murder, including $76 million in grants and $170 million in loans, investments or deposits.

  • Separately, the company also said last year it plans to double the number of Black-owned suppliers in its network in three years and spend an incremental $500 million with the new and existing suppliers.

How it works: Microsoft said it would enhance the weighting of diversity characteristics during the supplier evaluation and selection process, as well as push its top 100 suppliers to make progress on Black representation in their own workforces.

What they did: In an update earlier this year, Microsoft said it had “realized growth” in its Black-owned supplier base and implemented a confidential, voluntary workforce representation survey.

  • The company declined to disclose specific spends or supplier amounts so far.

Apple

What it promised: Apple announced a long-term $100 million commitment through a new Racial Equity and Justice Initiative and expanded it to include an additional $30 million this year to help communities of color, with a focus on education, economic equality and criminal justice reform.

How it works: So far, REJI has provided funding to historically Black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions, created an app developer academy in Detroit, and invested $50 million in venture capital firms focused on minority-owned businesses.

What they did: The Apple Developer Academy in Detroit opened to its first 100 students this month, offering a free, 10-month program to teach coding, design and entrepreneurship — within the Apple ecosystem. Apple expects to expand the program to 1,000 students.

Our thought bubble: That's a lot of potential new developers for Apple’s App Store.

Amazon

What it promised: Amazon said it would donate $27 million (including employee contributions and company matches) to 12 groups “focused on combating systemic racism,” like the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the National Urban League.

  • The company — one of the world’s largest employers — also said it set goals to double the number of top Black executives in the wake of Floyd’s murder.

How it works: The National Urban League said it received over $1 million from Amazon. A spokesperson from the group said the donations were unrestricted, meaning they can go toward any of its programs and operations. Amazon pledged another unrestricted $750,000 to the organization for 2022.

What they did: Amazon met its hiring goal, according to its workforce data. The improvement, though, is off a low base: In 2019, just 1.9% of senior leaders were Black. Now that's 3.8%.

Facebook

What it promised: Facebook said it would give $10 million to more than 30 racial justice groups, including All Star Code and the Shriver Center on Poverty Law. It also pledged to invest $100 million in Black-owned small businesses.

  • It said it would distribute 100,000 scholarships to Black students in its Facebook Blueprint program, which credentials digital advertisers.

What they did: Of the $100 million commitment to Black-owned businesses, the company said in an update this year that it has so far distributed $40 million of that in the form of grants and ad credits.

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