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San Francisco Bay Area Community Impact Grant Program

Community Impact Cash Grants support programs that offer innovative approaches to address critical social challenges and serve communities within a 50-mile radius of our San Jose, California, headquarters.

Bay Area Community Impact Grants (CIG)

Program goal

To close the education achievement gap for low-income kindergarten through 5th grade students in the Bay Area.


In reviewing the Bay Area landscape, the early education achievement gap among children and youth stands out as a particularly acute issue and one that has received less corporate attention and investment—including from Cisco.

Students falling behind in grades K-5 potentially face limits on their access to higher education and career opportunities, especially in STEM subjects and fields. Bay Area students not meeting learning standards in English and math are disproportionately students of color—African American/Black, Latino/Hispanic, and Pacific Islander in particular—as reflected in the 2017 Smarter Balanced Assessment Test Results:


The achievement gap begins at an early age and, unfortunately, follows many of these students throughout their educational and career journey. 

Social investment opportunity

Cisco aims to invest in nonprofit partners who are equipping low-income K-5 students with the skills necessary to be successful early in their educational pathway, providing a strong foundation for future learning including in STEM subjects.

Under this program, we will provide grants of $50,000 to $75,000 to selected nonprofit partners to create a community of practice that includes both the scaling of proven program models and testing new innovations that have potential to positively impact the skill gaps for low-income kindergarten through 5th grade students in numeracy and literacy.

We are particularly interested in proposals that demonstrate an understanding of the challenges faced by students who are most at risk of falling behind and solutions to address this challenge, as well as programs positioned for replication and scaling across communities.

We also aim to leverage other corporate resources to offer integrated support to partners, including volunteerism, production donations, and networking opportunities.

Focus area

K-5 education: foundational literacy and numeracy

Current grantee partners

826 Valencia (Bay View, San Francisco)

Catholic Charities CYO of the Archdiocese of San Francisco (East Palo Alto)

Children Rising (Oakland)

Girls Inc. of Alameda County (Oakland)

Jamestown Community Center, Inc. (Mission District, San Francisco)

Reading Partners (Bay Area)

Partners In School Innovation (Bay View, San Francisco)

Project Read (Redwood City)

San Jose Grail Family Services (Alum Rock School District, San Jose)

Silicon Valley Education Foundation (Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties)

CIG evaluation criteria

The Community Impact Grant program involves a volunteer employee review committee. The committee is trained for their year-long role which involves reviewing written applications, meeting with applicants and serving as a champion for selected grantees through the life of the grant. The committee uses the following evaluation criteria to make funding recommendations to the Cisco Foundation.

Addresses a significant unmet need

The proposed program addresses a problem that affects a large number of lives within the target area. The significant unmet need requires urgent action.

Innovative and impactful approach to the social problem

The proposed program is innovative in its approach to meet the needs of the target population and has significant/lasting impact on those served.

Serves at least 65% underserved population

The target audience of the program includes a minimum of 65% economically underserved populations relative to the average standards of the target geography.

Incorporates metrics to monitor program progress and measure impact

The program clearly defines and utilizes SMART metrics (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) to monitor progress and measure impact. The highest priority and funding consideration is given to proposals that clearly articulate the planned result of their efforts, as well as the metrics to measure that result.

Builds strategic partnerships

The organization collaborates with public/private entities for greater program impact and reach.

Shows potential to be replicable, scalable and sustainable

Program design has potential to be replicated and scaled to other communities. The long-term plan for the program enables it to flourish significantly beyond the resources provided by Cisco. 

Shows potential to utilize and leverage technology

Community Impact Grants do not require the program to include the use of technology. However, greater consideration will be given to organizations that are or can leverage technology into program delivery and reach of services.

Shows potential to leverage a strong relationship with Cisco employees

Community Impact Grants do not require the program to have an employee volunteerism component. However, greater consideration will be given to organizations that are or can leverage Cisco employee volunteers, expertise or leadership in their organization and/or in program delivery.

Possesses outstanding leadership

The organization has a credible track record in the relevant area and an outstanding leader and/or management team with qualities that help advance the organization’s mission.

Aligns with Cisco goals and values

The organization meets all the criteria, guidelines, and requirements as defined for Cisco's Community Impact Grant program.

CIG application process

Community Impact Grants support Bay Area programs within a 50-mile radius of our San Jose, California headquarters. Applications are by invitation only; however, organizations will have the opportunity to submit an initial information form for consideration.

Step 1: Eligibility quiz    

The eligibility quiz will help you determine whether your organization and program are aligned with our grant support program requirements.

IIFs are reviewed on a rolling basis.

Take the eligibility quiz.  

Step 2: Initial information form

Upon completion of the eligibility quiz, eligible organizations will be invited to submit an initial information form describing your proposal concept. Please note that this submission does not constitute a grant application. Information requested about your organization and program will help us determine whether your proposed program is aligned with Cisco's mission, strategic approach, and objectives.

Due to the high volume of submissions, we will reach out only to those organizations whose programs are most aligned with our funding approach and criteria to explore potential partnerships.

Step 3: Full proposal, by invitation only

If a Cisco grant administrator determines that your organization's program is aligned with Cisco's mission, strategic approach, and objectives for grant support, you will receive an invitation to submit a full proposal to the online application. If further information is needed, a grant administrator will contact you. You can expect to hear from a grant administrator within one business quarter (3 months).

The maximum request amount for first-time grant recipients is US$50,000.

Additional information

Cisco is not responsible for any proposal-related expenses incurred by your organization at any step during the grant application process. Grant policies and requirements are subject to change without notice, and become effective immediately upon posting to this website. The interpretation of these policies is wholly within the discretion of Cisco and the Cisco Foundation. All grants are made at the discretion of Cisco and the Cisco Foundation. Qualification under the policies listed on this website does not entitle an organization to receive a grant. We reserve the right to decline to make any grant requested.

Eligibility requirements

Organizational requirements

Program serves communities within 50-mile radius of San Jose: Cisco seeks to partner with qualifying nonprofit organizations that offer programs to benefit communities within a 50-mile radius of Cisco's corporate headquarters in San Jose, California. The physical headquarters of the organization need not be within this radius, as long as an affiliate office operates and/or administers programs within the specified area.

Underserved population: The goal of CIG is to benefit those that are underserved. Funding from CIG is meant to support organizations that serve a population greater than 65% economically underserved relative to the average standards of the target geography.

501(c)(3) tax exemption status: CIG grants support only nonprofit organizations that are recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) and classified by the IRS as a public charity. Programs applying through a fiscal sponsorship must submit the grant application through the fiscal sponsor organization and include required documentation for both the sponsored project/program and the fiscal sponsor.

Percentage for core mission support: Cisco understands that core mission support functions are vital and integral to the success of the organization and provision of services. With this in mind, an organization’s overhead can be up to 25%. (Exemptions from this requirement are determined on a case-by-case basis. Organizations must be exceptionally aligned with Cisco's values and criteria, and clearly explain and justify their overhead costs).

All applications must be completed using our online application form. Cisco will not consider incomplete proposals or paper-based applications.

Ineligible programs and/or activities

Proposals in the following areas are not eligible for a Community Impact Grant:

  • Miscellaneous exclusions: general operating expenses, other than directly associated with the program itself; individuals; research programs; membership-based activities; programs that promote or serve one culture, race, religion, population group, or political viewpoint –  rather than the community at large; religious, political, or sectarian organizations. (Note: A direct service program run by a faith-based organization may be eligible. See our grant giving policies.)
  • Hospitals: private or public hospitals; hospital foundations; medical centers, research centers, etc. (Programs based in a hospital may be eligible; however, grant funds must go exclusively to direct service in the community, not to general hospital operating expenses.)
  • Schools and scholarships: private, public, or charter schools; school foundations, booster clubs, and/or fundraising organizations affiliated with a particular school; colleges/universities; scholarships, stipends or loans within a program; and/or school-related activities such as field trips, research programs, etc.
  • Events: athletic events, competitions, tournaments; conferences, seminars, workshops; festivals, field trips, or other recreational events; fundraising events or sponsorships (benefit dinners, walks/runs, concerts, sports teams, etc.).
  • Philanthropic: capital building funds, challenge grants, grant-making organizations (all other foundations, including private foundations, family foundations, school foundations, etc.).

Policy on the funding of equipment

In general, Cisco does not fund the purchase of computer hardware or software, but may consider doing so only in cases where: 1) such resources are leveraged in a strategically innovative manner, thereby extending their impact well beyond everyday/staff use; AND 2) such resources are not available through other, more cost-effective means such as in-kind donation. Applicants must demonstrate that they have thoroughly explored such avenues without success.

Policy on Board of Directors review and approval

Cisco requires applicants to certify that the chairperson or at least one officer of the organization's board of directors has reviewed the grant proposal and that the organization's board is aware of the application and supports its submission. Cisco also requires applicants to certify the accuracy of the proposal and to confirm that the organization complies with the policies stated on this web site.

Policy on reviews of accuracy/compliance

All applicants are subject to reviews of their representations in their grant applications, their compliance with the policies stated above, and, if applicable, their adherence to the terms of the grant contract. If such a review reveals significant inaccuracies or violations of the policies stated above, or if an organization does not cooperate with the review, the organization may be required to return any granted assets and forfeit future funding eligibility.

Written grant contract

Grantee organizations are required to sign a donation agreement electronically before donations can be delivered.

Reporting and performance tracking

Cisco looks for grant proposals in which concrete measures of success can be used to assess performance. Organizations that receive funding will be required to use our online grant platform to customize performance metrics for their project and measure their progress at mid-year and at the end of the grant year. Informal quarterly/periodic check-ins will be conducted over the life of the partnership. Meaningful participation in this process is a requirement for continued funding eligibility.

Cisco grant giving policies

In addition, organizations must adhere to Cisco policies related to non-discrimination, religious proselytizing, non-support of violence and terrorism, advocacy, lobbying, and other political activities and other areas listed in grant giving policies.