Google (GOOG) is giving $12 million to seven prominent science museums, including two in the Bay Area, to thank institutions that inspired many of its employees to pursue careers in the computer sciences and engineering.
The donations from Google include $2 million for the Exploratorium in San Francisco, which will be used for the museum's future home on the waterfront at Piers 15 and 17. Another $2 million will go to the California Academy of Sciences.
The $12 million in donations from Google also includes grants to the Museum of Mathematics in New York, Science Museum London, the New York Hall of Science, the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago and the Museum of Science in Boston.
Although there was no formal competitive process for the grants, Jamie Yood, Google's philanthropic public affairs manager, said Google wanted to help museums that have strong ties to the company, such as those that have large numbers of Googlers as volunteers.
"We wanted to support museums in the community where Google has a strong presence," Yood said. "It's something we've been thinking about doing, because we have a lot of people at Google who cite their experience at science museums as part of their decision to become an engineer."Although Google gave $150 million to nonprofit and academic institutions in 2010, the gifts to the science museums are "really the first time we've really done it at this scale," Yood said. Google reported a profit of $8.5 billion in 2010.
The gift to the Exploratorium will be part of a $300 million fundraising campaign for the waterfront expansion, which is scheduled to open in 2013 and will double the museum's existing space. The expansion will triple the Exploratorium's capacity for teacher development. The museum reports that a current lack of capacity means that two of every three teachers are turned away from the Exploratorium's nationally recognized Teacher Institute.
"Google's gift greatly advances our ambitious $300 million fundraising campaign," Dennis Bartels, director of the Exploratorium, said in a written statement.
The Academy of Sciences plans to use almost all of its $2 million grant to help create a new 2014 exhibit on the importance of biodiversity and its relationship to human health. It will be developed in conjunction with the Smithsonian.
Yood said the company is not prepared to say whether the program will continue in future years, but that Google will continue to explore other ways that the company or its employees can help the museums. "We think our collaboration with these museums doesn't end with just signing this check," he said.