Where Do Tech Companies in Chicago Focus Their Grantmaking?

Tech companies have emerged as major forces in corporate philanthropy, which is why we have an entire blog devoted to it. And while Silicon Valley might be the first tech hub that comes to mind, companies in Chicago are really setting a precedent of what it means to be a high-profile tech giver.

Last year, we wrote a piece about Chicago tech companies to watch because of their local giving. These included Solstice Mobile, which makes digital project like mobile apps and wearables, and ParkWhiz, an app that makes parking in the city easier.

Well now, Built in Chicago has come out with an updated list of local companies that place a high value on volunteerism, community engagement, and charitable donations. Let’s take a closer look at who these groups are and what local nonprofits can expect to see from them in terms of grantmaking.

kCura developed the e-discovery software, Relativity, and targets corporations, law firms, and government agencies with it. This tech company is all about preparing youth for tech careers. It awards “Wired to Learn” grants each year to under-resourced Chicago schools to the tune of $250,000 over three-year periods.

“As a software company, we know technology helps level the playing field — and we want to make sure that the next generation has access to it,” said Chief People Officer Dorie Belsoff.

Another company highlighted was SAP Fieldglass, which provides technology for external workforce management and services procurement. In terms of philanthropy, this company targets Chicago youth through academic support, mentoring, and career development. Sample SAP Fieldglass grantees include the Chicago Tech Academy, Launch U, Lurie Children’s Hospital, and MetroSquash. These are all local groups; however, it also works with national ones like the American Cancer Society and the American Red Cross.

Discover is a well-known banking financial services company, but many people don’t realize that Discover is based in the Chicago area (the suburb of Riverwoods, actually). This company is a bit more on the financial side than the tech side, but still deserves a place on this list because of its volunteering efforts. The big focus here is on promoting financial education to local high school students, which isn’t a big surprise when you look at the typical giving of financial funders.

“Through our Pathway to Financial Success program, Discover is giving high school teachers the resources they need to teach financial education in the classroom so that students can gain important knowledge and tools for life after graduation,” explained Discover CEO David Nelms.

The last tech company that made Built in Chicago’s new list is a software maker called Infrastructure. This company has focused its philanthropy on food drives and early literacy at low-income schools. Infrastructure’s approach is more about donating time than money, and it’s even helped clean high schools with company volunteers.

But as a tech company, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Infrastructure often takes a tech approach to its volunteerism. In the past, its employees have put their time towards helping young women get interested in STEM careers for a Girls Go Digital camp at the company headquarters.

So in conclusion, Chicago tech companies are mostly interested in education and workforce development. Steer clear of other funding avenues like health and the environment, because tech companies here like to fund what they know and have experience in.

There’s a nice mix of grantmaking and volunteerism going on with these and other tech companies around the city, as each one finds its own way to give back. By reaching out to local tech companies and providing volunteer opportunities for their employees to get involved, those extra helping hands tend to turn into helping checks over time as well.

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