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To fuel future innovation, Google is giving $5 million to create 500 new Advanced Placement courses in math, science and technology for U.S. schools that are committed to enrolling girls and minority students.

The charity GiveDirectly will receive $2.4 million to expand its model of direct mobile cash transfers to poor families in Kenya as a new method for lifting people out of poverty.

A charity run by actress Geena Davis that studies gender portrayals in the media will use a $1.2 million Google grant to develop new automated software that analyzes how females are portrayed in children’s media worldwide, speeding up a previously manual process.

“It was looking prohibitively expensive to do a global study,” Davis said, adding that developing new technology seemed like a far-flung wish. “It seems so science future that we weren’t really raising money to do it.”

While the grant may be a relatively small investment for a major tech company, it represents one of the largest gifts ever for the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

Innovation and technology among nonprofits have long been underfunded with traditional funders often feeling averse to risk and more often seeking to fund specific types of existing programs.

Momentum has been building for the past decade for funders pursuing venture philanthropy, said Matt Bannick, managing partner of the Omidyar Network founded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Since 2004, the group has given out $310 million in grants to nonprofits, including the Sunlight Foundation and DonorsChoose.

Seeking out ideas to fund, rather than existing projects, turns traditional notions of philanthropy on its head, Bannick said.

“Rather than looking for organizations that could do this specific work that we’re hoping to get accomplished, let’s look for fabulous entrepreneurs … that have a new and innovative idea that we can get behind,” he said.

Silicon Valley philanthropists are fueling some growth in funding for nonprofit innovators, but some older foundations also have turned to funding innovation and nonprofit entrepreneurs.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami, born from a newspaper chain, has turned its focus to media innovation. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, founded in 1934 by a General Motors chief, focuses on science and technology to drive the nation’s prosperity. Sloan was an early funder of the Smithsonian’s DNA barcoding project.

Such funders are betting that early seed money can have a big impact with the right ideas and entrepreneurs.

“If there was more funding,” Bannick said, “there would be a lot more great ideas that could emerge.”


Charity: Water:

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