Tipping Point Community Looks to Tap Silicon Valley Riches

April 30, 2012; Source: CNET

A relatively young nonprofit called Tipping Point Community will be $2 million richer if California’s tech millionaires and billionaires decide to answer the $1 million matching grant offered by Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife, Anne Wojcicki, who founded her own nonprofit, 23andMe. Brin and Wojcicki have given seven figure grants to Tipping Point twice before, but this time it is with the match requirement.

With the tag line “Make Poverty Preventable,” Tipping Point Community describes itself as a “community that is passionate about eliminating poverty in the Bay Area.” Its board appears to be capital equity firms plus several members from the San Francisco 49ers (former defensive secondary Ronnie Lott, CEO Jed York, and President Gideon Yu). As a grantmaker, Tipping  Point aims to help the “so many people who want to do good in our community [who] don’t know where to start…We’ve screened hundreds of non-profits and made more than 300 in-depth site visits to select and support 34 organizations with strong leadership, clean financials and measurable results in the fight against poverty.”

Tipping Point promises donors “100% impact” because the members of the Tipping Point board pay for the fund’s administrative and operational expenses. According to the Tipping Point website, “Our board underwrites all operating and fundraising costs so that 100% of every dollar donated goes directly to the most effective poverty-fighting organizations in the Bay Area. We have no endowment; each year we start our fundraising efforts from zero. Everything we raise goes out the door within 12 months. Because we believe that education, housing, employment and wellness are all critical in the fight against poverty, we distribute all gifts across these four issue areas.” It is unfortunate language that makes donors think that overhead is something to be avoided, when in actuality, what Tipping Point is doing is raising its overhead dollars separately, rather than taking an overhead percentage off the top.

Otherwise, Tipping Point seems to be a relatively well-heeled Bay Area re-grantmaking enterprise, if the $6.6 million that Tipping Point raised at its annual dinner last May is any indication. All told, the group has raised more than $40 million, which it says has been used to address the educational, employment, and housing needs of 160,000 poor people in the Bay Area.

Tipping Point looks like it will continue to be healthy, with plans to link the Brin and Wojcicki donations with seven-figure contributions from New York hedge fund manager Stan Druckenmiller and investment banker Charles Schwab. It’s great that Silicon Valley and investment bankers are putting money into this charity, but doesn’t it make you think about all the regions that don’t have a Brin or Druckenmiller or Schwab to capitalize their struggling anti-poverty efforts? –Rick Cohen