With a big presence in both Seattle and China, microsoft was hit hard by Covid-19 early on. VDB Photos/shutterstock
With a big presence in both Seattle and China, microsoft was hit hard by Covid-19 early on. VDB Photos/shutterstock

Most U.S. corporations aren’t known for their bold or creative philanthropy. But when major disasters happen, a who’s who of Fortune 100 companies are often quick to step forward with major pledges of relief. That’s certainly been the case in the past week, as a stream of top firms have announced donations of cash and in-kind efforts in response to the coronavirus. Many of these companies operate in the U.S. and internationally, and so were tuned into the growing pandemic well before it metastasized into a full-fledged public health crisis across the United States.

This is especially true of the tech sector, which was hard hit from the beginning, with its close linkages to China and a big presence in Seattle—the first American city hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak. The majority of top tech companies have now announced philanthropic pledges to combat the virus. While these same firms are also making other moves against the pandemic—aimed, for example, at easing America’s shift to virtual work productivity and promoting the flow of trusted information—here, we take a look mainly at gifts of cash and in-kind support.

The response by Big Tech to the pandemic is being watched closely. Before the first case of COVID-19 appeared in Seattle, leading U.S. technology companies faced a rising tide of criticism and were fighting calls for greater regulation. None of these underlying issues have gone away. Now, though, with deep pockets and a vast array of other resources, Big Tech is well-positioned to regain some lost public trust by helping to deal with a growing national emergency. But it could also further alienate the public with commitments that are seen as woefully insufficient.

What does Silicon Valley’s COVID-19 philanthropy look like so far? The list of commitments below is based on public announcements as of March 25. We will update it as some of America’s biggest and richest companies make additional donations. Here’s a quick rundown:

Amazon

Staying close to home, Amazon created a $5 million Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund that will provide cash grants to struggling small businesses in the Seattle region, and committed $1 million to a new COVID-19 fund established by the Seattle Foundation. In the D.C. area, it donated $1 million toward emergency relief funds at the four largest local community foundations, and provided both cash and in-kind support to five foodservice providers.

It’s also stepping up for the independent delivery services partners and drivers, part-time and seasonal workers that keep its supply chain going by establishing a $25 million Amazon Relief Fund that will dole out personal grants approximating two weeks pay. Moving forward, the fund will also support global employees and contractors facing financial hardships.

Apple

Apple is responding to the virus with a combination of cash and in-kind support. It committed $15 million in mid-March “to help treat those who are sick and to help lessen the economic and community impacts of the pandemic,” and will be matching employee contributions at a two-to-one ratio. On March 19, Cook announced that initiatives will include support for both local Silicon Valley efforts like Silicon Valley Strong and international organizations like Protezione Civile, to help the Italian government support first responders. It’s also working to source supplies for healthcare workers, most notably donating 9 million face masks to health professionals in the U.S. and Europe—protective gear that Apple had stockpiled to prepare for wildfires or other disasters.

Cisco Systems

Cisco’s response to the pandemic includes cash and product donations, globally and locally. Of the global response, $8 million is a cash contribution to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. It’s also funding rapid deployment of its Country Digital Acceleration Program (DCA) for businesses and governments, and providing access to technologies like Webex. Cisco also launched a global employee matching gift campaign of $5 million, and allocated up to an additional $4 million more for a 72-hour campaign to support dedicated funds, plus $1 million for “additional grants.” On March 23, it made a $2 million contribution to an initiative launched by Santa Clara and San Jose officials to help struggling residents pay bills and rent. As of March 25, this new fund had commitments totaling $7.2 million from local tech companies, including Destination: Home, Adobe, Zoom, Facebook and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Facebook

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg committed to matching a total of $20 million in user donations to two efforts supporting global relief efforts: $10 million to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, and $10 million to the CDC Foundation, the nonprofit organ of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of March 25, more than 180,000 members of Facebook’s community had raised over $5 million. Fundraising for the CDC will launch in the next few weeks. Recognizing the business disruptions its advertisers are facing, Facebook is also offering $100 million in cash grants and ad credits for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses in 30 countries. And it’s promoting the free flow of trusted information through the Facebook Journalism Project, which has partnered with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism and the Local Media Association to offer $1 million in grants to U.S. and Canadian local news organizations covering the coronavirus. The networking site is also donating the stash of 720,000 face masks it amassed in response to the California wildfires to frontline healthcare workers.

Google 

Google launched a campaign to raise up to $5 million for the United Nations Foundation and the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, with a two-to-one dollar match through Google.org. It’s also mounting a number of public services centered on helping people find “useful information.” Google launched an SOS alert to connect people with WHO and CDC announcements in more than 20 languages, and is underwriting $25 million in ads for the WHO and government agencies. Currently, it’s promoting a “Do the Five” campaign to raise awareness of five simple measures to slow the spread, and supporting productivity for students and remote workers by providing free access to products like Hangout video conferencing and G Suite for Education. (See more details here.)

Intel

Semiconductor leader Intel joined other Bay Area tech companies combating the virus, with a $1 million contribution to International Red Cross, and a commitment to “use its factory stock and emergency supplies” to provide protective gear for frontline healthcare workers, including masks, gloves and face shields.

Microsoft

With the majority of its employees located in Washington state and a big presence in China, Microsoft was hit early. It also responded early, first in China, then in the U.S. On January 26, it made an initial donation of roughly $142,000 USD to relief and containment measures in China. On February 11, it announced a second round of support totaling roughly $6.5 million USD in cash and tech support, which included roughly $677,000 donated by its employees. In early March, it joined Amazon as a lead funder on the Seattle Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund with a $1 million contribution. Like others, Microsoft is also providing in-kind support to its user community, offering six months of free access to Teams, its workforce collaboration platform, and helping people stay informed via a new live dashboard that’s tracking the outbreak.

Meanwhile, the philanthropy of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has been responding to the coronavirus for several months, now. Back in January, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation committed $5 million to the 2019-nCoV response in China, and began working with the Chinese public and private sectors to coordinate a response. In early February, it provided $100 million to protect at-risk populations in Africa and South Asia, ensuring the right interventions are prioritized. In early March, it made a $5 million commitment to help health agencies in its home city Seattle. Days later, it collaborated with Wellcome and Mastercard on a collective $125 million effort to identify potential treatments, accelerate development, and ramp up global manufacturing. Most recently, it invested $5 million in Inovio Pharmaceuticals to fast-track vaccine development.

Netflix

Like Amazon and some other tech companies, Netflix’s earnings could rise as a result of a pandemic that is forcing tens of millions of Americans to stay at home. But the company’s content creators have been economically devastated as COVID-19 shuts down Hollywood. Netflix has committed $100 million to create an economic relief fund to help crew members and other members of the film and TV community who’ve been sidelined by the crisis. And it has given $1 million to SAG-AFTRA for its COVID-19 Disaster Fund, $1 million to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, and $1 million to the Actors Fund Emergency Assistance in the United States. Reflecting Netflix’s growing global footprint, it’s also giving $15 million to nonprofits outside the U.S.

Salesforce

Salesforce is focusing its philanthropic efforts on its hometown, San Francisco. On March 12, CEO Marc Benioff announced that the company was donating $1 million to the University of California at San Francisco’s (UCFS) COVID-19 Response Fund, and a half-million to the CDC Emergency Response Fund. Two days later, it donated $1.5 million to the City of San Francisco’s Give2SF COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, which is providing local emergency response to the epidemic. On March 22, Salesforce responded to a call for help from UCSF by delivering 9,000 face masks, and committed to working across its “resources and relationships” to source 5 million more.

Along with other tech firms, the company is also making its technology available to partners, customers and communities in a number of ways. It’s providing free access to Health Cloud for emergency response teams, call centers and healthcare systems. Tableau, its interactive data visualization software, features a free data resource hub that shares coronavirus data compiled by Johns Hopkins, the WHO and the CDC in real time. And Quip Starter, which helps teams collaborate outside the office, is available free to Salesforce customers and nonprofits through the end of September.

Twitter

Twitter is donating $1 million to support nonprofit journalism, funds which go the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Women’s Media Foundation. The company said the money will “ensure these organizations can continue their work in the face of new economic strains and […] directly support journalists. Their shared efforts to advocate for the rights of vulnerable reporters and to guarantee an equal share of voice for women in the industry has never been more relevant or important.”

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We expect more commitments to be announced in coming days. Check back here for more updates. And if you have news about tech philanthropy related to the coronavirus, email us at editor@insidephilanthropy.org.

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