Cisco San Francisco Bay Area Community Impact Grant Program

Through the Bay Area Community Impact Grants (CIG) program, Cisco partners with organizations 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

Our goal is to close the education achievement gap for students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade (pre-K–5) who come from underserved and under-resourced communities in the Bay Area.

Program investment opportunity and model

The achievement gap in foundational literacy and numeracy begins at an early age, and the gap follows many of these students throughout their educational and career journey. The issue is particularly acute for students who are from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds, students who are English language learners, and students of color who are from low-income families in high-need communities, are not performing at proficiency level, or are at risk of falling behind. Students have also been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and disrupted instructional time. This disruption has resulted in lack of access to basic needs, a steep learning loss, isolation, and lack of social-emotional learning opportunities.

It is never too early. Studies have shown that return on investment for education is optimal when efforts are made to support children at an earlier age. "Early skills breed later skills because early learning begets later learning." (Source: "The Productivity Argument for Investing in Young Children" by James J. Heckman and Dimitriy V. Masterov, 2007.)

Through CIGs, Cisco invests in nonprofit partners who are equipping low-income pre-K–5 students with the literacy and numeracy skills necessary to be successful early in their educational pathway. The goal is to provide a strong foundation for future learning and access to higher education and career opportunities, including science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects and fields.

  • We offer annual cash grants to selected direct-service nonprofit partners that are diverse in size, leadership, and service offerings to foster a local ecosystem consisting of organizations addressing the challenge at hand.
  • We seek to fund promising program models with potential for replication and scaling across communities, as well as new innovations that have potential to close the achievement gap.
  • We use other corporate resources to offer integrated support to grantee partners, including employee volunteerism, Cisco technology donations, advisory support, and networking opportunities.

Applying this approach for deeper engagement over multiple years, we invest and partner with service organizations to help strengthen their organizational capacity to take their program/service to the next level in order to position them for long-term viability and impact on the students and their families.

Focus area

Pre-K–5 education: Foundational literacy and numeracy, along with integration of social-emotional learning in instructional support

Past and current CIG grantee partners

826 Valencia (Bay View, San Francisco)

Bay Area Tutoring Association (San Jose)

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

Chapter 510 (Oakland)

Children Rising (Oakland)

Girls Inc. of Alameda County (Oakland)

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

Olimpico Learning (Santa Clara County)

Partners in School Innovation (Bay View, San Francisco)

Project Read (Redwood City)

Raising a Reader (Bay Area)

Reading Partners (Bay Area)

Safe Passages (Oakland)

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

San Jose Public Library Foundation (in support of the social-emotional learning evaluation work under development by the Extended Learning Community of Practice)

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

Think Together (San Jose)

CIG evaluation criteria

The CIG program involves a volunteer employee review committee. Serving for a one-year term, specially trained committee members review written applications, meet with applicants, and serve as champions for selected grantee partners. Employee champions often extend their annual commitment to advocate for grantee partners  through the cycles of their grant partnership with Cisco. 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.

Takes an 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 the people being served.

Serves at least 65 percent underserved population

The target audience of the program includes a minimum of 65 percent 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, and Timely) to monitor progress and measure impact. The highest priority and funding consideration are given to proposals that clearly articulate the planned result of their efforts, as well as the metrics that will be used 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 make use of technology

CIGs do not require the program to include the use of technology. However, greater consideration will be given to organizations that are using technology or can incorporate it into program delivery and reach of services.

Shows potential to leverage a strong relationship with Cisco employees and peer-learning opportunities within a community of practice among extended learning service providers.

CIGs do not require the program to have an employee volunteerism component. However, greater consideration will be given to organizations that are using or can use 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

CIGs 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.

Take the eligibility quiz

Step 2: Initial information form

Upon completion of the eligibility quiz, we will invite eligible organizations to submit an initial information form describing their 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.

We review initial information forms on a rolling basis. 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, they will invite you to submit a full proposal. If we need further information, a grant administrator will contact you. You can expect to receive our decision on your proposal within one business quarter (3 months).

The maximum request amount for first-time grant applications 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 Cisco headquarters in 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 the CIG program is to benefit people who are underserved. Funding from the CIG program is meant to support organizations that serve a population that is more than 65 percent economically underserved relative to the average standards of the target geography.

501(c)(3) tax exemption status: CIGs 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 are 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 to the provision of services. With this in mind, an organization's overhead can be up to 25 percent. (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 CIG:

  • Miscellaneous exclusions: general operating expenses, other than those that are directly associated with the program itself; individuals; research programs; membership-based activities; programs that promote or serve only one culture, race, religion, population group, or political viewpoint—rather than the community at large; and 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, and so forth. (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 and research programs.
  • Events: athletic events, competitions, or tournaments; conferences, seminars, workshops; festivals, field trips, or other recreational events; fundraising events or sponsorships (including benefit dinners, walks/runs, concerts, and sports teams).
  • Philanthropic: capital building funds, challenge grants, and grant-making organizations (all other foundations, including private foundations, family foundations, and school foundations).

Policy on the funding of equipment

In general, Cisco does not fund the purchase of computer hardware or software, but it may consider doing so only in cases where: 1) such resources are used 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 website.

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 to measure their progress at midyear 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 nondiscrimination, religious proselytizing, nonsupport of violence and terrorism, advocacy, lobbying, and other political activities and other areas listed in grant giving policies.