Paul Brainerd, founder of the desktop publishing giant Aldus Corp., began in 1994 the nonprofit Social Venture Partners (SVP), a partnership that gives time, money, and expertise to the Seattle community. Brainerd told STFB that K-12 schools should capitalize on their special advantages when approaching technology corporations.

The technology industry’s giving decisions are being made by a younger, more engaged set of corporate players, Brainerd said. More and more high-tech companies give employees at all levels the responsibility to determine community needs, develop grant guidelines, and make the actual funding decisions. Typically, these are executives in their 30s and 40s.

“They have a different perspective about community giving than their parents, who wrote checks or served on committees,” he said. “They want to see accountability, they want to see a plan of action.”

More than giving money, Brainerd said, executives of technology corporations want to give their expertise and time. “They’re more engaged, more proactive.” And they rate education as their No. 1 community concern. “There’s a tremendous opportunity in K-12,” Brainerd said.

That translates into a strategy that starts with recruiting members of your local community to volunteer within the school. Brainerd suggests getting high-tech parents to volunteer in schools. They might help with wiring projects such as Net Day, assist teachers, or provide their technical know-how to troubleshooting. After you’ve gotten them involved in school issues, Brainerd said, then you can move up parent volunteers a giving tier: soliciting a cash donation from their high-tech employer.