by Kirby Lindsay Laney, posted 14 July 2015
This summer, the community of Fremont will be given an incredible windfall, allowing our non-profits to address some of our greatest needs. The Tableau Foundation has announced the first cycle of its Community Grant program to 501(c)3 non-profits (or organizations with fiscal sponsors) – offering grants of $500 – $20,000 for projects and programs to benefit Fremont. The total amount available for grants this year will be $84,600.
“We don’t have an agenda,” explained Neal Myrick, Corporate Social Responsibility Director for Tableau Software, about this program, “we want to reflect the needs and interests of the community in our giving.”
‘Solve The World’s Problems’
Myrick has been at work creating the Tableau Community Grant program since May 2014. “It’s something the founders have wanted for a long time,” he explained, “Tableau is a mission driven organization. Our mission is to help people see and understand their data.”
Tableau Software provides its clients with an ability to convert raw data into easily understood charts and/or reports that make it easier to make decisions and address problems. Businesses and non-profits collect raw data today on everything, but it is nearly useless without organization and Tableau can provide software that converts data into an understandable, and applicable, format.
With their corporate philanthropy, Tableau wants to be as practical and effective as the product it provides, and “to have an impact on the world,” Myrick observed, “The Foundation has a mission – to use facts and analytical reasoning to solve the world’s problems.” With the Community Grants, the Tableau Foundation will take data – in input from the community and its non-profits – and converting it into action.
The Community Grant program will reflect interests of Tableau employees, as requested by the company founders. “They wanted the Foundation to be employee driven; to build something that reflected the passions of the employees,” Myrick explained, “and make sure the work of the Foundation involves as many employees as possible.”
The Tableau Foundation Employee Work Group, made of employee volunteers, gives time to direct Myrick and the Foundation on how best to distribute the more than $3 million dollars (in cash and in-kind donations) the company has given out.
The Employee Work Group has been at work developing, with feedback from employees, the strategies of the Foundation, and how to make an effective, responsive grant program.
‘Listen & Learn’
Tableau, a huge, international company with offices in dozens of cities around the world, wants to give back in all of the communities in which it operates. However, the Employee Work Group has chosen to launch, and test, the Community Grant program in only four cities, to start. The cities chosen are London, Austin, Kirkland and the home of the company headquarters – Fremont.
Each city has assembled a Community Grant Team of 15 people that went out to listen and learn about what the community needs, what the employees there want, and solicited applications from the area non-profits. “The team went out to listen to the non-profits in the neighborhood, and tried to understand the community first,” Myrick explained about the Fremont Team, “potentially, they want to support new art and serve people in need.”
Applications for this first cycle are due July 31st. In August, the Grant Team will review and choose projects and programs to fund. The $84,600 could potentially fund 5 – 15 different projects, and Myrick repeatedly explained that hope to fund a diversity of projects. “We will try to build a portfolio,” of projects, he said, “that will add to the vibrancy and creativity of this neighborhood; a broad portfolio that respects the diversity of Fremont.”
These grants focus on two initiatives:
- to get something done in the community
- to create opportunities for Tableau employees to get involved
“This is our first grant cycle,” Myrick observed, and they expect to adapt and change the program as needed. They don’t intend to commit to long-term funding of any project or program, but they want to see how relationships develop with local non-profits. For the future, “we’re going to keep this ‘listen and learn’ approach,” of sending employees, especially the Grant Team, out to find out about the projects and programs that benefit Fremont most.
“One of the factors that might surprise people,” Myrick said, “There are not as many strings attached.” Myrick described these as ‘general operating grants’ or ‘non-restricted’ grants. Casual conversation with a few non-profit organizers here confirmed the rarity of this kind of gift – grant money available to be spent on anything (staff salaries, overhead costs, materials, etc.) provided the costs contribute to fulfilling the project goals.
Definitely Next Year, Too
Another grant cycle will take place in 2016, but not necessarily in the middle of summer. “We’ll look at the cadence of our work,” Myrick said, as they assess when it will be best for the volunteer boards to complete an application and gifting cycle. “We’re not sure when next year,” he said, “but definitely there will be another grant next year.”
The $84,600 in Community Grants to Fremont is actually only a small part of Tableau’s philanthropy. Other programs help out, here and elsewhere, through:
- Employee Service & Giving Program – Tableau matches cash donations made by its employees (with double matches for gifts to help with earthquake recovery in Nepal,) and they encourage volunteer service by giving $25 for every two hours of work employees do to the charity they worked for
- Strategic Grant Program – benefitting large projects, solving world problems with money, volunteer and in-kind donations, using smart data organization. They’ve supported two Ebola elimination efforts, worked with PATH on an HIV project in Kenya and supported Equal Opportunity schools
Tableau also sponsors some local projects, in its ‘home town.’ They already gave this year to the Fremont Arts Council Solstice Parade and the Neighborhood Expo, as well as maintaining on-going efforts on behalf of their employees at FamilyWorks (our local food bank) and B.F. Day Elementary School.
The $84,600 could have a huge impact on this small community – enabling non-profits to do a lot of good in raising the quality of life here, for the community as a whole and for those in most need. However, Tableau has no intention of stopping there.
Please help by spreading the news of this opportunity to your favorite non-profits, for 2015 or 2016, or both. Learn more about the Community Grants program through the Tableau Foundation website, and contact firstname.lastname@example.org for an application. Learn more about this great corporate neighbor through the Tableau Software website, and say thanks when encountering Tableau employees at community volunteer projects – there will likely be a few lending a hand there!
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©2015 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.