5 Bay Area nonprofits win $1 million in Google.org Impact Challenge

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In a year when many nonprofits have struggled to raise money, citing donor fatigue, five Bay Area nonprofits received a huge boost from the Google.org Impact Challenge.

Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Silicon Valley-based Google, sifted through more than 700 applicants of local nonprofits to find the most innovative ideas making an impact.

"We're thrilled and beyond excited about winning this challenge with Google.org," said Rey Faustino, founder of OneDegree.

OneDegree is one of the five lucky nonprofits winning $1 million in grant funding from the Impact Challenge Bay Area 2021.

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The funding will help OneDegree advance its "Common App" social benefits tool.

"The common app is a first of its kind online school that consolidates multiple applications for public benefits and nonprofit services into one single online application," said Faustino.

Each of the winners is a local social justice-focused nonprofit helping improve quality of life for our neighbors.

For the Young Women's Freedom center, the funding will help expand services.

"We received a million dollars from Google.org for our work to end incarceration with girls and gender-expansive youth. We are so excited this investment in our work means everything," said Jessica Nowlan, executive director of the Young Women's Freedom Center.

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Nowlan knows the importance of this work firsthand.

She was once an incarcerated youth, and the organization she now leads helped turn her life around.

"Young women leave the center and go on to be elected officials, work in philanthropy, and run government departments," she said.

YWFC has four locations across California in San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Clara County, Los Angeles, and will soon open additional offices in Contra Costa County and Sacramento.

This round of winners marks the third Google.org Bay Area Impact Challenge. Previous challenges ran in 2014 and 2015.

Applications launched in early 2020 just before the pandemic lockdowns, making the timing of this funding more crucial than ever.

"We believe supporting with grant funding is important. It's what keeps the lights on, it's what allows these organizations to go deeper and community spread their reach, hire more people," said Adrian Schurr, Google.org's regional giving manager.

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A panel of judges including non-profit and local leaders like Steph and Ayesha Curry and Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai selected four organizations for the $1 million grand prizes.

An additional nonprofit, College Track, was awarded $1 million in funding as the Public Choice Award winner by securing the most votes in an online poll.

The organization helps first gen high school students get into college and succeed in STEM careers post graduation.

"We're much more than an after school program," said Marshall Lott, College Track's Northern California regional executive director.

"It's having an impact here in the Bay Area. It's having an impact with the students that are participating in our program. We're seeing our students graduate at a rate that's two times the national average," he added.

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Bay Area-based Homebase secured funding for its work across county lines to end homelessness.

"Homelessness should not be in it, must not be an acceptable status quo. Housing is absolutely a basic and fundamental human right," said Nikka Rapkin, executive director of the non-profit.

San Francisco's Compass Family Services, a nonprofit focused on reducing the number of homeless families, rounds out the five grand prize winners.

The funding will support families and kids with mobile and virtual mental and behavioral health services.

"We'll be able to do even more because the referrals continue and continue to grow. We want to continue to be able to adhere to that therapy on demand," said Erica Kisch, Compass Family Services executive director.

Kisch said of the nearly 2,800 families that received services from the organization last year, 330 families are enrolled in therapy and demand is growing.

Five more non-profits, rounding out the top 10 Google.org Bay Area Impact Challenge 2021 winners, received $500,000 in funding.

An additional 25 organizations were awarded $100,000 in monetary support.

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