Supporting a strong nonprofit ecosystem

Silicon Valley is known for innovation and success, but many opportunities are out of reach for most residents. The San Jose area is now the nation’s second-most-expensive housing market, with a median home value of nearly $900,000.

The regional cost of living is so high that almost 30 percent of Silicon Valley residents rely on some form of public or private assistance. With income inequality on the rise, one in four people in Silicon Valley experiences food insecurity.


Our nonprofit partners are providing critical services to communities every day to address the needs of low-income individuals and families. In order to support their clients, nonprofits need philanthropy. We invest in the Silicon Valley nonprofit sector by providing general operating support, rent-free office space and capacity-building support, among other assistance. We believe it’s critical to support the nonprofit sector to ensure that effective and sustainable organizations are serving the community.

Thriving Nonprofit Sector

As part of our ongoing commitment to be responsive to grantees, we piloted new approaches to capacity-building to support sustainable change in our community partners.

Sobrato Impact Lab

High-impact organizations are strengthening their evaluation capacity because they know that harnessing data and learning helps them deepen their impact in the community, adapt to changing landscapes and make the case for their program model. Organizations are constantly working toward more meaningful ways to measure the impact of their work and create a culture of learning to translate data into more effective approaches. Many Sobrato Family Foundation grantees are making strides in this important work, and they are eager for opportunities to build on and hone their efforts.

Hearing this desire, this year we launched the Sobrato Impact Lab, an 18-month intensive program providing 10 organizations with a collaborative learning environment, tools and techniques to improve their evaluation capacity and create a culture of learning. Assessments from the first year of the lab have illuminated opportunities for the program to transform organizations through a number of mechanisms. Key opportunities include implementing greater strategic coherence within organizations, streamlining and organizing their data systems and strengthening their metrics. We’re happy to build on our legacy of empowering organizations in the community to achieve lasting social change by investing in their capacity to measure that change and learn from the results.

Financial Management Cohort

We also sponsored a capacity-building training program to help nonprofits and their leadership teams become even stronger in financial management. The 12 grantee participants walked away with new budgeting templates, practical skills and information to help the entire organization operate with fiscal discipline. Participating organizations report that the cohort gave them tangible tools and stronger analysis and strategy capacity at the leadership level. They said that the initiative empowered them to get back to basics with line staff regarding financial management.

Thriving Nonprofit Sector Speaker Series

Our Thriving Nonprofit Sector Speaker Series provides an opportunity for nonprofit leaders to explore tools and strategies to strengthen Silicon Valley organizations and best address our region’s complex challenges. This year we held three large-scale events, with an average of 150 attendees. They featured a range of speakers – from subject experts to local nonprofit leaders – and covered a number of issues – from evaluation to inequality. As a result of the diversity of voices and ideas, most attendees reported that they learned something that they can use in their work or that could benefit their organization.

Continue to have more difficult conversations like this;they push people out of their comfort zones.for those of us who grew up in poverty, iT was eye-opening to learn about the institutions that keep people at the bottom. It was frustrating but motivating and inspiring. pushed me to put a different lens on my work!”

Participant feedback, Toxic Inequality: Difficult Conversations Toward Greater Equity & Mobility (June 19, 2017)

Being able to grow the capacity of our organization has been the single most important thing that has come out of GOS.”

GOS Grantee
Photo: Daniel Gaines Photography

General Operating Support

The Sobrato Family’s support of the local nonprofit ecosystem is a community mainstay, strengthening organizations that have served economically disadvantaged clients throughout Silicon Valley for 20 years. Our General Operating Support (GOS) grants provide flexible support for Silicon Valley nonprofits that foster self-reliance, increase economic independence and improve the quality of life for those most in need.

Between 2004 and 2016, the Foundation awarded $55 million across Silicon Valley through 616 multi-year GOS grants. In 2017, the Foundation partnered with Harder+Company to conduct the first systematic assessment of the impact of our GOS investments on grantees and the broader Silicon Valley nonprofit sector.

Our unrestricted GOS funding signals our deep trust in nonprofits’ ability to direct dollars to best support their organizations, allowing them to spend funds as they see fit, including to fulfill internal organizational needs.

616 GOS Grants totalling

Sobrato Centers for Nonprofits

Eighty percent of SURVEY respondents agree or strongly agree that their tenancy has increased overall organizational credibility.

Photo: Daniel Gaines Photography

The high cost of living in Silicon Valley doesn’t affect only low-income families and individuals. It also displaces the nonprofit organizations that work tirelessly to support them. As part of our ongoing commitment to maintaining a strong nonprofit ecosystem, we provide long-term, rent-free space within three multi-tenant nonprofit centers, in Milpitas, San Jose and Redwood Shores.

A community of 72 nonprofits now occupies a combined 333,000 square feet of office, conference and warehouse space. Tenants report that the centers have had a transformational impact on their organizations. For example, tenant My New Red Shoes has been able to consolidate office and warehouse space, significantly increasing volunteer capacity and expanding its program reach from 3,000 kids in 2012 to more than 10,000 today.

IMPACT ON TENANTS