Google has begun to make good on its commitment to plough a small fraction of the proceeds from its wildly successful stock offering into social investment projects, the company said on Tuesday.
Funding for "good works" will largely be derived from the donation of 1 percent of the equity from last year's initial public offering, along with 1 percent of its annual profits.
Google said it plans to organise its charitable work under the umbrella of a new organisation it calls Google.org. The mission is to focus on vast issues like global poverty, energy and the environment.
"These are big problems so our focus is to provide sustainable and scalable solutions to these problems," said Sheryl Sandberg, Google's vice president of operations and advertising, who is also in charge of overseeing Google.org.
One percent of Google's stock represents about 3 million of the 300 million shares created by its IPO in August 2004.
The equity portion alone represents about $900 million (516 million pounds) to $1 billion in stock at current market prices, a company spokesman said. Over the past four quarters, Google has reported net profits of around $968 million, resulting in a contribution of just under $10 million for charitable works.
"This can grow over time as potentially our stock or our profits increase," Sandberg said.
The company has contributed cash representing about 300,000 of the 3 million share commitment to fund the Google Foundation with an initial endowment of $93 million. It will invest up to another $175 million over the next three years, Sandberg said.
But Google wants to take a more broad-based approach to its charitable work than traditional philanthropy, with its tendency to focus on non-profit activities and big-gift giving to universities or other high-profile institutions.
FOR PROFIT, BUT ANTI-POVERTY
One of the first recipients, Acumen Fund will get $5 million to fund big anti-poverty and healthcare works through targeted financing of entrepreneurial projects in the developing world.
A $400,000 grant will go to a Kenyan research project conducted by economists from Harvard University and the University of California, seeking the best way to improve rural water quality to prevent a leading cause of death in children.
Technoserve, a global development organisation founded in Ghana in 1968, aims to run a business plan competition for entrepreneurs across Ghana and use a $500,000 Google.org grant to support the winning projects, said Luba Vangelova, a spokeswoman for Technoserve based in Washington D.C.
Google officials said Google.org is partly modelled on the Omidyar Network (http://www.omidyar.net/corp/partners.shtml/), a new model philanthropy funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.
Frustrated by the limits of conventional non-profit philanthropy, Omidyar and his wife, Pam, have set up an investment group that looks to make businesses work as a tool for social good, a spokeswoman for the network said.
"People in (Silicon) Valley are taking a bit of a different view of where they put their money," said Michelle Goguen, a spokeswoman for Redwood City, California-based Omidyar Network.
There are parallels with the charitable giving of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, the world's richest man. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was begun 11 years ago with a first year endowment of $94 million, an amount that has mushroomed -- propelled by the stock market's tech boom -- to $28.8 billion.
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