Plenty of companies are using artificial intelligence and data science to solve problems more efficiently. Now, a Boston foundation has plans to bring those capabilities to nonprofits.
The Patrick J. McGovern Foundation announced on Tuesday that it will merge with the nonprofit arm of a Silicon Valley technology company so that it can apply tech to solving global challenges ranging from climate change to hunger. The McGovern Foundation will combine forces with the Cloudera Foundation, which has a $9 million endowment, bringing the total endowment of the combined organization to $1.5 billion.
The McGovern Foundation was established in 2017 through a gift from the estate of Patrick J. McGovern, an entrepreneur and founder of Boston-based International Data Group, who died in 2014. The merger accelerates the launch of a new initiative, called the Data and Society program, which will aim to help nonprofits use data science and AI. The foundation will do this though through grants and access to technical expertise, short accelerator programs, and multiyear partnerships.
“When we hear from nonprofits that they need access to these tools, the answer isn’t just writing a check . . . it is figuring out how to get the resources and expertise to them most effectively,” said Vilas Dhar, president of the McGovern Foundation. “The private sector is using the tools of data science to transform their industry, and nonprofits have been left behind in that.”
The Cloudera Foundation was established in 2017 by enterprise data company Cloudera so that nonprofits could access its data management tools. Mike Olson, cofounder of Cloudera and chairman of the Cloudera Foundation, said in a statement that the two organizations’ “missions couldn’t be better matched.”
Mergers between nonprofits are rare, since there often are no financial incentives for organizations to combine resources. Dhar said conversations with the Cloudera Foundation started informally in 2019 when he met Cloudera executives at an AI conference. Discussions about a potential merger began last November.
“We were able to make the case that Cloudera’s unique technical expertise, McGovern’s unique strategic frame, and our shared capital would allow us to move this work forward faster,” Dhar said. “This almost never happens in philanthropy.”
Ina Breuer, the executive director of New England International Donors, said the deal is “unprecedented,” adding that it “cements Boston’s role as a progressive leader in philanthropic practices.”
A team of five employees at the Cloudera Foundation will join 13 employees at the McGovern Foundation, and Dhar said the organization plans to double in size by the end of the year. Claudia Juech, chief executive of the Cloudera Foundation, will serve as vice president of the foundation’s Data and Society initiative.
“It looks a lot, legally and structurally, like a private sector merger, but instead of a payout to stockholders, we have a payout for social good,” Dhar said of the merger, which is expected to close in the second quarter of 2021.