Okta, a San Francisco-based cloud technology company, just became the latest company to pledge money to fight homelessness and poverty. Over the next four years, the company will give $500,000 to Tipping Point, a nonprofit that partners with other organizations to find solutions for the 1.3 million people in the Bay Area too poor to meet their basic needs.
The pledge follows larger commitments from tech companies like Microsoft, which recently committed $500 million to help develop affordable housing in Seattle, and Cisco, which committed $50 million to fight homelessness in Silicon Valley roughly a year ago. In November, Airbnb pledged $5 million to address homelessness in San Francisco, and in January, partnered with Twilio to give more. Others, including the health care giant Kaiser, are also pouring hundreds of millions into affordable housing.
Okta’s own pledge is smaller, though it argues that companies that don’t have Microsoft’s scale can also help beyond just giving funds. “One of the biggest and most important things we can do at a tech company is help people get jobs,” says Erin Baudo Felter, executive director of Okta for Good, the company’s social impact arm. The company will hire San Francisco high school students as interns this summer as part of the city’s Opportunities for All initiative. It will also offer free meeting space in its new offices to nonprofits that are themselves getting priced out of the Bay Area, and will step up its efforts to have its employee volunteer.
The company, which has worked with Tipping Point in the past, planned the donation as it moved into a new office and as it plans for more growth, wanted to take a step toward addressing “the affordability crisis and deepening inequality that permeates everything and affects all of us,” she says.
Okta didn’t take a public position on Prop C, San Francisco’s tax on big businesses designed to raise money to address the city’s problem with homelessness, that was seen as a major moral test for the city’s tech companies. (The tax may now face legal challenges, and San Francisco’s mayor is looking for ways to keep some of the money that has come in.) But Felter acknowledges that the tax, which was approved by voters in November, has led to more giving from the industry. It’s also leading to more companies working together, as in the case of Airbnb and Twilio. “You’re seeing collaboration among tech companies,” she says. “And this is one of I think the best things about the world that I work in is this idea that you can radically collaborate with your peers. And I think Prop C really unlocked a lot of that.”