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Facebook launches local community fund

Grants available for Belle Haven and East Palo Alto nonprofit services

Here comes the best news local nonprofits might hear during a time of gutted budgets: Facebook wants to give them money.

Nonprofits serving Belle Haven and East Palo Alto may now apply for grants from Facebook's new local community fund. With $500,000 in seed funding from the social-networking company, the fund will award $3,000 to $5,000 to 501c3 nonprofits providing services to Belle Haven in Menlo Park, and to East Palo Alto.

With administrative help from the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, a community board of directors will review applications and make the final grant decisions. Serving on the board are Susan Gonzales, head of community engagement at Facebook; Sara Sperling, Facebook; Annette Reavis, Facebook; Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith; and Laura Martinez, mayor of East Palo Alto. City attorneys selected the city representatives to serve two-year terms.

Gonzales said that while nonprofits don't have to be located within either community, they must provide services there.

"From our perspective, this is a local community fund designed to further develop our relationships with our neighbors. Feeding this fund with $500,000 will allow us to begin the process of working towards an understanding of what the needs are in the community. We will evaluate its success and impact and then determine future funding," she said.

She emphasized that the fund is designed specifically for the two immediate neighbors of Facebook's headquarters -- Belle Haven and East Palo Alto.

The two cities have slightly different emphases for their grant programs. For East Palo Alto, the grants will support nonprofits that provide computer and social-media training, organizations that provide evening and weekend programs for 13- to 18-year-old kids, and groups that provide scholarships to college-bound students.

"We're looking for nonprofits who serve East Palo Alto residents, nonprofits who may be located here and with good track records, who might be willing to collaborate with other nonprofits," Martinez said.

Menlo Park, on the other hand, hopes to fund all types of services to Belle Haven.

"I'm excited to see what kind of response we get, and excited to see the benefits to nonprofits in our area who are already helping out in Belle Haven," Keith said. "They're suffering so much because of the economy. We're just hoping to help these nonprofits continue to function and keep doing their work."

Applying is meant to be as easy as possible, according to Gonzales. Public agencies are not eligible. Applicants should describe the program, including details about what the funding would support, and include a history of the nonprofit and its programs. The first round of grants will be awarded by Dec. 31. Contact the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation for more information.

To apply, contact the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation by emailing info@venturesfoundation.org or visit the website at www.venturesfoundation.org.

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