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Today, the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation and the Cloudera Foundation, software company Cloudera’s philanthropic arm, announced a merger that will launch an initiative to accelerate data and AI maturity within nonprofits. In a definitive agreement, Silicon Valley-based Cloudera Foundation will merge its staff, $9 million endowment, and $3 million in grants with the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, a $1.5 billion data science and AI philanthropic organization. The companies say the transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2021, subject to regulatory approval.

Nonprofits face significant barriers to leveraging big data analytics and AI tools for driving strategy, growth, and global impact. The gaps in knowledge and technical expertise translate to opportunity costs in efficiency, impact, and scalability. A 2019 survey by PwrdBy found that nonprofit-specific AI is reaching fewer than 23% of organizations worldwide. In that same report, 83% of respondents said they believe ethical frameworks need to be defined before the nonprofit sector sees “full adoption” of AI.

“Data science and AI-based tools, deployed with purpose and social conscience, could improve nearly every part of the human experience. Enabling civil society to access these technologies will unlock transformational approaches to many of the world’s greatest challenges,” Patrick J. McGovern Foundation president Vilas Dhar said in a press release. “Backed by philanthropic capital and deep technical expertise, we are working together with social changemakers to advance a tech-enabled, human-centered future.”

The Cloudera Foundation, which was founded in 2017 with the mission of providing technology and mentorship to foster data expertise in the civil sector, has piloted its approach with seven nonprofits. The Patrick J. McGovern Foundation plans to broaden the foundation’s efforts post-merger to up to 100 organizations addressing the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals, the collection of 2030 goals set by the UN General Assembly as “a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.”

Cloudera Foundation CEO Claudia Juech will direct activities around data enablement for nonprofits as VP of Data and Society at the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, a new program. Data and Society will offer a range of services, including public workshops, multi-year data science development collaborations, and accelerator partnerships focusing on extracting actionable insights from datasets.

For example, Data and Society could help organizations combating climate change better manage their resources. In a report on the civil sector’s adoption of AI, the Brookings Institute cites a partnership between The Nature Conservancy and the Red Cross to create a dashboard incorporating social media data on floods for city planning — an effort that might assist cities in becoming more sustainable.

“AI can enable nonprofits to manage a broad range of activities. In conjunction with machine learning and data analytics, it is a way to control costs, handle internal operations, and automate routine tasks within the organization,” the report’s coauthors wrote. “Adoption of these tools can help groups with limited resources streamline internal operations and external communications and thereby improve the manner in which they function.”

Cloudera cofounder and Cloudera Foundation chair Mike Olson added: “Our missions couldn’t be better matched. We have seen how data and analytics enable nonprofits to work more effectively and increase their impact. With the leadership and resources of the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, our team can do even more to help mission-driven organizations change the world.”

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