K-12 education is the No. 1 giving priority for the top 100 technology companies, according to a new report that tracks the community activities of Silicon Valley corporations. And other technology companies around the country are expected to follow suit, allocating more time, resources, and money to equip the nation’s schools.

What’s behind the trend? A top technology executive told STFB that today’s high-tech grants maker is younger and more engaged in local education issues. Our interview with Aldus Corp. founder Paul Brainerd, page 2, will give you the inside scoop on how to use this knowledge to win top technology dollars.

Silicon Valley, named for the prevalence of technology-based companies near California’s Stanford University, includes corporations with K-12 grant programs such as Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, and Apple Computer. About 600 new companies crop up in the region each year, according to Philanthropy Journal Online.

The study shows that total giving in Silicon Valley by the 50 firms that track this portion of their giving rose from $29 million in 1994 to $49 million in 1997—a whopping 69 percent increase. When it comes to local giving, Silicon Valley firms target a surprising 24 percent of their contributions, $6 million, to K-12 education.

About 11 percent of the surveyed firms’ worldwide philanthropy goes to K-12 education (the report did not give include a worldwide total). That compares to the 4 percent companies nationwide give to elementary and secondary schools.

Schools far outpaced other giving areas such as housing, environmentalism/recycling, and health care. K-12 education even pulled ahead of higher education, long thought to be the favorite beneficiary of corporate technology donations.

Researchers from Stanford University surveyed Silicon Valley’s 100 largest companies to document the extent and nature of their involvement in the community for the Community Foundation of Silicon Valley report.

Lessons in K-12 technology giving

There’s good information in the Silicon Valley study that can help guide your fund raising strategy when approaching coporations for donations.

Silicon Valley companies are likely to favor partnerships with non-profit organizations and other corporations, and use more in-kind and product gifts than other corporations.

When approaching a technology corporation about gifts, think about asking for product, volunteer, or other in-kind contributions. The companies responding to the survey reported that nearly half (41 percent) of their total giving was in non-cash computer and office equipment.

Further, most of the firms reported having organized volunteer programs. The Silicon Valley study shows 71 percent in 1997 invested in volunteer time, up from 55 percent in 1994.

So take advantage of the trend by having company volunteers come in to your school to help out with wiring or teacher support and in-service training. You can later leverage the relationship to position your schools for a cash donation from the company.

Not giving enough?

The report contradicts critics of the technology industry, who’ve been saying it lags behind other corporate sectors in giving.

In fact, although the data so far have been scarce, recent surveys like the Silicon Valley report suggest that technology companies are generous when it comes to product and in-kind contributions.

The Conference Board found in 1996 that the computer and office-equipment industry allocated 2.6 percent of its U.S. pre-tax income to giving, a portion that is “well ahead of what industries are giving,” according to research associate Audris Tillman.

The other good news for schools looking for technology dollars is that computer companies are giving more than other kinds of corporations. According to the Silicon Valley study, the area’s firms not only give more of their pre-tax dollars but also more dollars per employee than non-technology companies do.