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How Tech Gives: Getting to Know SanDisk (Part 1)

This two-part excerpt is from How Tech GivesPhilanthropy Front and Center-San Francisco’s new blog series that features interviews with Bay Area tech leaders about philanthropy news, trends and opportunities among the region’s tech companies. This series is done in partnership with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF).

Anubha-Jain

Anubha Jain

Gisela-Bushey

Gisela Bushey

In Part 1 below, Anubha Jain, SVCF’s manager of corporate responsibility, and Gisela Bushey, director of SanDisk Foundation and Community Relations, talk about the company's grantmaking activities. In Part 2, they talk about how corporate volunteerism is a critical part of building a relationship with a company. 

Anubha: Increasingly we hear that corporate philanthropy is becoming more and more strategic and aligned with business priorities of the parent company. For those who are unfamiliar with SanDisk, tell us a little bit about the business side of what you do, and how that aligns with your company’s philanthropic priorities.

Gisela: For more than 25 years, SanDisk has been transforming digital storage with breakthrough products and ideas that push the boundaries of what’s possible. Our flash memory technologies are used by many of the world's largest data centers, embedded in the most advanced smartphones, tablets, and laptops, and are trusted by consumers around the world. From handheld devices to hyper-scale data centers, SanDisk is expanding the possibilities of storage.

However, SanDisk is not simply a business whose objective is to ensure profitability; it is also a part of the society in which we all live. Profitability is not an objective that can be supported by market success alone. Companies act in a social and cultural context that is intertwined with a responsibility for the sustainable longevity of the social systems they function within.

This can be seen in the growing importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Businesses are not only expected to be economically successful and to comply with statutes. They are expected to show a commitment to face society’s ethical, social and ecological challenges. CSR, therefore, becomes a strategic necessity for astute, ethically motivated, and socially-committed companies and has become a key prism through which society, politics, and capital markets assess a business.

Strategically anchored corporate social responsibility allows achievement of success using a company’s own means in its own sphere of influence. For SanDisk, this means integrating philanthropy and community engagement into its very DNA, fostering a culture of social commitment and giving/generosity, and raising SanDisk’s profile as a model corporate citizen.

Our focus areas -- children/youth health and welfare, and STEM and K-12 education programs that target underrepresented constituencies -- mirror SanDisk’s global corporate core values, particularly innovation, integrity, flexibility, executing on and exceeding corporate goals and objectives. SanDisk seeks to develop meaningful partnerships that genuinely match our core business strategies, level the accessibility and storage playing fields, make unique use of our data and media storage products, and develop goals and objectives that integrate our corporate strategies with our corporate philanthropy and community engagement activities.

Visit SanDisk's website to learn more about its grantmaking programs.

Anubha: Since your company and philanthropy are global, what is the geographic scope of your grantmaking in this region? 

Gisela:For our grantmaking program, we are focused on the locations where SanDisk has a significant presence: the San Francisco Bay Area, Longmont/Superior/Louisville, CO, Chandler, AZ, Salt Lake City, UT and Boston, MA. A volunteer committee of SanDisk employees meets quarterly to review and recommend submitted proposals. We only review proposals submitted online, and the maximum amount an applicant can apply for is $25,000. 

Anubha: What advice would you give grantseekers about how to introduce their nonprofit organization to your company? Today, though many corporations recognize the value of having employees involved with nonprofits, the request is sometimes delegated to an online process where little to no human interaction exists. So, how do you advise those organizations that are new to SanDisk’s philanthropy to go about introducing their work? What is the first step? Should they try to develop a relationship with an “internal champion” before applying?

Gisela: Our Foundation and Community Relations programs are very hands-on. We prefer to work more closely with fewer organizations than to spread our giving out so thinly as to have minimal issue impact. We are approached with significantly more requests for support from charities than we can possibly fund.

Present your programs and services in a way that they will stand out: Spotlight an innovative/transformative use of our product, or a unique approach to service delivery that promises to have high impact results. These proposals will be of particular interest to our grantmaking review committee and Foundation Advisory Board. 

One of the most effective ways to develop a relationship with SanDisk is to engage with us through our employee volunteer program. Not only do we get to know you, your programs, and services (and you get to know us), we match our employees’ volunteer time, individually and in teams, with financial support. In many cases, this generates much more than the maximum $25,000 an organization could receive through our grantmaking program. 

And unlike our grantmaking program, which has specific focus area requirements, organizations supported through our employee volunteer program can be any 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that complies with SanDisk’s non-discrimination policy (in other words, all are welcome, all will be served). We are particularly interested in organizations with multiple volunteer opportunities, and those programs that can accommodate individual, modest, and large groups of volunteers. 

Anubha: What tips do you have for improving the strength of the proposals that people submit to you?  

Gisela:Make sure your organization’s programs and services really do align with our focus areas. A tenuous link, or repeated submission of a proposal that we have declined to fund in the past, will not be reviewed, and [that] is time better spent on identifying more suitably aligned sources of funding.

Don’t assume [that] because your organization has been in existence for many years, the committee members are familiar with your programs and services. Membership rotates, and that person who does know all about you may no longer be participating on our committee. Prepare your proposal as if no one knows anything about you.

Cite compelling examples/stories that shine an “impactful light” on your program services, goals, and objectives.

Cutting and pasting from other proposals is not only difficult to read (the content is generally very stilted and doesn’t “hang together”), it tells the committee that very little time or thought has been taken to submit a proposal to our foundation, and it minimizes the efforts of this group of volunteers, who take our review and recommendation process very seriously.

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Visit SanDisk’s website to learn more about its grantmaking programs. Then explore our Corporate Giving and Foundation Fundraising galleries for more info on these topics.

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