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A billion-dollar year for Silicon Valley foundation

In annual meeting, local nonprofits and donors discuss needs, relationships, numbers

A contribution worth $500 million from Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg last December helped propel the Silicon Valley Community Foundation to a record-breaking year in amassing charitable funds -- $985 million altogether, officials said Tuesday.

The foundation, which manages nearly $3 billion in charitable resources for local individuals, families and corporations, drew about 500 donors and nonprofit managers to its annual meeting in San Mateo Tuesday, where it discussed its 2012 metrics and convened a panel discussion on philanthropy.

The foundation manages donors' charitable assets – for which they take a tax deduction when they transfer the funds to the foundation -- and enables them to recommend grants to nonprofits from their "donor-advised" accounts. It also calls attention to regional problems in areas, such as public education, and tries to direct donor resources to address them.

The 2,600 donors whose charitable assets are held in 1,650 philanthropic funds with the foundation include individuals and corporations, foundation officials said.

In 2012, the foundation processed 10,181 grants totaling $292 million -- "more than any other community foundation in the world," CEO Emmett Carson said Tuesday.

In terms of charitable focus, the largest single chunk of the $292 million -- 40 percent -- went to nonprofits related to education, followed by grants to community-building nonprofits (25 percent). Other categories were health (14 percent); families (7 percent); arts and culture (6 percent); environment (5 percent); religion (2 percent) and general nonprofit support (1 percent).

Geographically, the largest chunk, $132 million, went to U.S. nonprofits outside of California. The second-largest chunk, $130 million, went to Bay Area charities, making the Silicon Valley Community Foundation the single largest grant-maker to Bay Area nonprofits, Carson said. About $15 million went to non-U.S. charities in 29 different countries and the remaining $17 million went to California charities outside the Bay Area.

Tuesday's meeting featured a panel discussion "dialogue on giving" among philanthropists and nonprofit leaders. Panelists included Dave Peery, chairman of the Palo Alto-based Peery Foundation, Andre V. Chapman, founder and CEO of the Unity Care Group which serves foster youth, Lata Krishnan, an investor and philanthropist who also chairs the American India Foundation and Kerry Lobel, executive director of Puente de la Costa Sur, a community resource agency on the San Mateo coastside.

Foundations officials also discussed their lobbying on recent successful efforts locally to curb payday lending as well as on recently signed state legislation to extend food stamps to homeless youth.

They also discussed their efforts to encourage the 54 school districts in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties to collaborate in implementation of the new Common Core State Standards, recently adopted by California.

The new standards – drafted by the nation's governors and state schools chiefs and adopted by all but a handful of states – "will move us from an education system based on an agrarian economy, education 2.0, to education 9.0, which will prepare our kids for the interconnected, global society they face today," Carson said.

With $2.9 billion in assets -- double the total from just four years ago -- Silicon Valley Community Foundation is among the nation's largest community foundations. At the end of 2011, it was second only to the Tulsa (Okla.) Community Foundation and ahead of the New York Community Trust, the Cleveland Foundation, the Chicago Community Trust and the Marin Community Foundation.

Unlike global grant-making foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation or the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, ommunity foundations typically operate to carry out charitable activities of and for the benefit of residents of a defined geographic area.

Even without Zuckerberg's gift worth $500 million last December – the largest single contribution to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation in its history – officials said they would have had their best-ever year in 2012, breaking the previous record of $471 million set in 2011.

Chris Kenrick

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