“Traditional societies…” wrote Jared Diamond, describing the iterations of humanity considered a prelude to our own, “…in effect represent thousands of natural experiments in how to construct a human society.” Some of these experiments were more successful than others, and what we have been left with (at this current stage of progress) is a seemingly diverse and flourising civilisation underscored by the unrelenting growth of economic monoculture.
In his book ‘What Money Can’t Buy‘ Michael Sandel notes how, “…in a society where everything is for sale, life is harder for those of modest means. The more money can buy, the more affluence (or the lack of it) matters.” He continues to assert that, “…putting a price on the good things in life can corrupt them. That’s because markets don’t only allocate goods; they also express and promote certain attitudes toward the goods being exchanged…” This is a view supported by many observers. Levitt and Dubner in their seminal piece ‘Freakonomics‘ also describe how “…morality represents the way we would like the world to work, and economics represents how it actually does work.” This is not a new phenomenon. Since the very first economic or social barters were made by man, a disconnect has existed between the creation of individual and social wealth. This gap has been filled by ‘giving.’
At every stage of our species’ development, ‘giving’ has been with us. Whether one sees this phenomena as evolutionary (manifest from pro-social behaviour) or spiritual (an urge from deep within our souls), the fact remains that giving- in all its forms- has been one of the greatest factors in the success of humanity and spans all the domains of ‘human’ assets; the intellectual (knowledge, experience, emotion and insight), economic (wealth in all its forms), cultural (arts and language), social (time, group structures) and even biological (from simply strength to the very body in entirety).
In reality, there are few (if any) beings on our planet who have not been touched in some way by giving (regardless of whether that is a small act of generosity from a stranger, or being lifted out of poverty with a microloan), and few (if any) who could argue-away the profound legacies left by the outcomes of man’s urge to improve the present and future position of his society. Without some form of giving, many of mankind’s greatest achievements simply would not have occurred. Giving is also one of the few activities mankind often undertakes without the geographic, cultural, social and political prejudices applied to other aspects of life.
“Giving, like love, is an element of both charity and philanthropy; love sometimes is left out, but giving is essential….” writes Robert Bremmer. “Getting is important, too, but giving comes first. We can scarcely open our mail, answer the telephone, or walk down a city street without encountering opportunities to give. In addition to tangible things, we give- or withhold- love, trust, friendship, encouragement, sympathy, help, and advice. What we give to alleviate the need, suffering and sorrow of others, whether we know them or not, is charity. What we give to prevent and correct social and environmental problems and improve life and living conditions of people and creatures we don’t know and who have no claim on us is philanthropy…” (Giving – Charity & Philanthropy in History, 1996)
So what is the role of charity and philanthropy in society?
In these exclusive interviews, we speak to Jeff Raikes (Founder, Raikes Foundation and former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Eli Broad (Founder of the Broad Foundations), Sir Ratan Tata (Chairman Emeritus, Tata Group), Anousheh Ansari (Trustee of the X Prize Foundation, and title sponsor of the Ansari X Prize), John Paul Dejoria (Philanthropist and Entrepreneur, Founder of Paul Mitchell and The Patrón Spirits Company), Craig Newmark (Founder of craigslist and craigconnects), Michael Holthouse (Entrepreneur & Founder of Holthouse Foundation for Kids & Lemonade Day), Dr. Robert Tjian (President, Howard Hughes Medical Institute) Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller (Chair, Wellcome Trust), Harvey V. Fineberg, M.D., Ph.D. (President, Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation), Jacquelline Fuller (Director, Google.org) and Darren Walker (President, Ford Foundation). We discuss the fundamental nature of charity and philanthropy- looking at why these phenomena exist together with their role and impact on society. We also talk about their individual journeys in philanthropy, and how their organisations are aiming to tackle some of society’s greatest problems.. We discuss the fundamental nature of charity and philanthropy- looking at why these phenomena exist together with their role and impact on society. We also talk about their individual journeys in philanthropy, and how their organisations are aiming to tackle some of society’s greatest problems.
[bios]Jeff Raikes is the co-founder of the Raikes Foundation, which he and his wife, Tricia, established in 2002. Jeff retired from his role as chief executive officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (with an endowment of over $42bn) in 2014, having guided the global organization through more than five years of significant growth. He came to the philanthropic world from a 27-year career at Microsoft Corporation, where he was a member of the senior leadership team and president of the Microsoft Business Division. He serves on the boards of Costco Wholesale, the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and the Microsoft Alumni Network. He is a trustee of Stanford University, where he holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering-economic systems.
Eli Broad and his wife, Edythe are founders of The Broad Foundations, which they established to advance entrepreneurship for the public good in education, science and the arts. The Broad Foundations, which include The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and The Broad Art Foundation, have assets of $2.4 billion. Eli Broad is a renowned business leader who built two Fortune 500 companies from the ground up over a five-decade career in business. He is the founder of both SunAmerica Inc. and KB Home (formerly Kaufman and Broad Home Corporation).
The Broad Foundation’s major education initiatives include the $1 million Broad Prize for Urban Education, The Broad Superintendents Academy and The Broad Residency in Urban Education. The Broad Foundation also invests in advancing innovative scientific and medical research in the areas of human genomics, stem cell research and inflammatory bowel disease. In an unprecedented partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,Harvard University and the Whitehead Institute, the Broads in 2003 announced a $100 million founding gift to create The Eli and Edythe Broad Institute for biomedical research. The Institute’s aim is to realise the promise of the human genome to revolutionise clinical medicine and to make knowledge freely available to scientists around the world. They gave a second $100 million gift to The Broad Institute in 2005, and in 2008, they gave an additional $400 million to make the world’s leading genomics institute permanent.
Over the past four decades, the Broads have also built two of the most prominent collections of postwar and contemporary art worldwide: The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Collection and The Broad Art Foundation. The two collections together include more than 2,000 works by nearly 200 artists. Since 1984, The Broad Art Foundation has operated an active ‘lending library‘ of its extensive collection. Dedicated to increasing access to contemporary art for audiences worldwide, The Broad Art Foundation has made more than 8,000 loans of artwork to nearly 500 museums and university galleries worldwide.
Mr. Broad was the founding chairman and is a life trustee of The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, to which The Broad Foundation gave a $30 million challenge grant in December 2008 to rebuild the museum’s endowment and to provide exhibition support. He is a life trustee of The Museum of Modern Art in New York and of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where the Broads gave a $60 million gift to build theRenzo Piano-designed Broad Contemporary Art Museum, which opened in February 2008, and to fund an art acquisition budget. In August 2010, the Broads announced plans to build a contemporary art museum and headquarters for The Broad Art Foundation on Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles. The new museum, to be called The Broad, will be designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and is scheduled to open in early 2014. Broad also spearheaded the fundraising campaign to build the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, which opened to worldwide acclaim in October 2003.
From 2004 to 2009, Mr. Broad served as a Regent of the Smithsonian Institution by appointment of the U.S. Congress and the President. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 1994 was named Chevalier in the National Order of the Legion of Honor by the Republic of France. Mr. Broad serves on the board of the Future Generation Art Prize. He received the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in 2007 and the David Rockefeller Award from the Museum of Modern Art in March 2009.
Mr. Broad is also a bestselling author with the publication of his first book, ‘The Art of Being Unreasonable: Lessons in Unconventional Thinking,‘ released by Wiley & Sons in May 2012.
Ratan N Tata was the Chairman of Tata Sons, the holding company of the Tata group, from 1991 till his retirement on December 28, 2012. He was also chairman of the major Tata companies, including Tata Motors, Tata Steel, Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Power, Tata Global Beverages, Tata Chemicals, Indian Hotels and Tata Teleservices. During his tenure, the group’s revenues grew manifold, totalling over $100 billion in 2011-12.
Mr Tata is also associated with various organisations in India and overseas. He is the chairman of two of the largest private-sector-promoted philanthropic trusts in India. He is a member of the Indian Prime Minister’s Council on Trade and Industry. He is the president of the Court of the Indian Institute of Science and chairman of the Council of Management of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. He also serves on the board of trustees of Cornell University and the University of Southern California. Mr Tata serves on the board of directors of Alcoa, and is also on the international advisory boards of Mitsubishi Corporation, JP Morgan Chase, Rolls-Royce, Temasek Holdingsand the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
Mr Tata received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Cornell in 1962. He worked briefly with Jones and Emmons in Los Angeles before returning to India in late 1962. He completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School in 1975.
The Government of India honoured Mr Tata with its second-highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan, in 2008. He has also received honorary doctorates from several universities in India and overseas.
On September 18, 2006, Anousheh Ansari captured headlines around the world as the first female private space explorer.
Anousheh is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder and chairman of Prodea Systems, a company that will unleash the power of the Internet to all consumers and dramatically alter and simplify consumer’s digital living experience. Prior to founding Prodea Systems, Anousheh served as co-founder, CEO and chairman of Telecom Technologies, Inc. The company successfully merged with Sonus Networks, Inc., in 2000.
To help drive commercialization of the space industry, Anousheh and her family provided title sponsorship for the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million cash award for the first non-governmental organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks.
Anousheh immigrated to the United States as a teenager who did not speak English. She earned a bachelor’s degree in electronics and computer engineering from George Mason University, followed by a master’s degree in electrical engineering from George Washington University. She has an honorary doctorate from the International Space University. She is currently working toward a master’s degree in astronomy from Swinburne University.
Anousheh is a member of the X Prize Foundation’s Vision Circle, as well as its Board of Trustees. She is a life member in the Association of Space Explorers and on the advisory board of the Teacher’s in Space project. She has received multiple honours, including the World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, the Working Woman’s National Entrepreneurial Excellence Award, George Mason University’s Entrepreneurial Excellence Award, George Washington University’s Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, and the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Southwest Region. While under her leadership, Telecom Technologies earned recognition as one of Inc. magazine’s 500 fastest-growing companies and Deloitte & Touche’s Fast 500 technology companies.
John Paul Jones DeJoria is an entrepreneur and philanthropist best known as a co-founder of the Paul Mitchell line of hair products and The Patrón Spirits Company.
DeJoria entered the world of hair care as an employee of Redken Laboratories. He was fired from this position, he claims over a disagreement on business strategies. In 1980, he formed John Paul Mitchell Systems with hairdresser Paul Mitchell and a loan for $700. DeJoria also owns 70% of The Patron Spirits Company. The company is a tequila brand, and in 2011 they sold approximately 2,450,000 cases. Additionally, DeJoria has a business interest in the African oil industry through his holdings in Madagascar Oil Ltd.
DeJoria co-founded the Patrón Spirits Company in 1989 and is a founding partner of the House of Blues nightclub chain and has interests in Pyrat Rum, Smokey Mountain Bison Farm, llc, Ultimat Vodka, Solar Utility, Sun King Solar, Touchstone Natural Gas, Three Star Energy, Diamond Audio, a Harley Davidson dealership, a diamond company (DeJoria), mobile technology developer ROK AMERICAS, the John Paul Pet company, which does hair and personal grooming for animals, and J&D Acquisitions LLC, the parent company for the Larson, Striper, Triumph, Marquis and Carver boat companies formed with Minneapolis-based investor Irwin L. Jacobs.
DeJoria has been active in the film industry as an executive producer and actor. He made a cameo appearance as his own former business partner, Paul Mitchell, in the 2008 comedy You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, and also in The Big Tease as the fictional John Paul Mitchell. DeJoria also made a cameo appearance in the Showtime series Weeds season 2. He narrated and appeared in television commercials for Patron in November 2011. In 2012, using a video, DeJoria showed his support for Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, when Watson was detained in Germany for interfering with shark finning operations.
Dejoria is a supporter of Food4Africa. In 2008, DeJoria traveled to sub-Saharan Africa to join Nelson Mandela in his efforts to help feed over 17,000 orphaned children through Food4Africa. In the same year his company Paul Mitchell helped provide over 400,000 life-saving meals for the children.
Craig Newmark is a self-described nerd, Web pioneer, speaker, philanthropist, and advocate of technology for the public good. In 2013 he was named “Nerd-in-Residence” by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Center for Innovation in recognition of his volunteer work with the department to enhance services to veterans.
Craig is the founder of craigslist, the almost completely free online classified advertising site that has seen more than 5 billion ads posted. While no longer part of management, Craig continues to work with craigslist as a customer service representative (CSR) in what he calls a “lightweight” capacity.
Today, Craig’s primary focus is craigconnects, which he launched in March 2011. The mission of craigconnects in the short term is to promote and enhance the use of technology and social media to benefit philanthropy and public service. He uses the craigconnects platform to support effective organizations working for veterans and military families, open government, public diplomacy, journalistic ethics and accountability, consumer protection, election protection, and voter registration.
Craig serves on the board of directors of the Poynter Foundation, Center for Public Integrity, Sunlight Foundation, Consumers Union/Consumer Reports, Blue Star Families, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. He also serves on the Board of Overseers of the Columbia Journalism Review and on the advisory boards of nearly twenty other renowned non-profit organizations (see the full list at craigconnects.org/organizations). He is a member of the Sierra Club’s Arts and Entertainment Council.
Born in Morristown, New Jersey in 1952, Craig received his bachelor and master’s degrees in computer science from Case Western Reserve University. He lives in San Francisco and enjoys bird-watching, squirrel-watching, and science fiction.
Craig communicates regularly through his own blog on craigconnects.org and through the Huffington Post, Facebook, LinkedIn, Medium, and Twitter. He also travels the country speaking about issues, appearing on behalf of organizations he supports and delivering his craigconnects message to audiences nationwide.
Michael Holthouse is best known in the business world as founder and President of Paranet, Inc., a computer network services company. As an INC. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year and a two-time “Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Company” winner, Michael grew Paranet in 6 years to 27 offices, 1600 employees and revenues in excess of $100 million and ultimately sold the company to Sprint in 1997.
Since then he has focused on philanthropy, investments and a variety of business interests. Community involvement is an enormous part of Michael’s life and he has served on a variety of children’s and civic boards.
His family foundation, Holthouse Foundation For Kids, focuses proactively on at-risk youth. His philanthropic venture is called Prepared 4 Life which prepares middle school youth for life through fun, proactive and experiential after-school programs infused with life skills, character education and entrepreneurship. His newest venture is Lemonade Day, which is a community wide education event teaching youth how to start, own and operate their very own “Lemonade Business”.
Robert Tjian has been president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute since April 2009. Trained as a biochemist, he has made major contributions to the understanding of how genes work during three decades on the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley. He was named an HHMI investigator in 1987.
Tjian studies the biochemical steps involved in controlling how genes are turned on and off, key steps in the process of decoding the human genome. He discovered proteins called transcription factors that bind to specific sections of DNA and play a critical role in controlling how genetic information is transcribed and translated into the thousands of biomolecules that keep cells, tissues, and organisms alive. Tjian’s laboratory has illuminated the relationship between disruptions in the process of transcription and human diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and Huntington’s. More recently, he has begun studying how transcription factors control the differentiation of embryonic stem cells into muscle, liver, and neurons.
Tjian received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Berkeley in 1971 and a PhD from Harvard University in 1976. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory with James Watson, he joined the Berkeley faculty in 1979. At Berkeley, Tjian assumed a variety of leadership roles, including spearheading a major campus initiative to support and implement new paradigms for bioscience teaching and research. He served as the director of the Berkeley Stem Cell Center, and the faculty director of the Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has received many awards honoring his scientific contributions, including the Alfred P. Sloan Prize from the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation and the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University. He was named California Scientist of the Year in 1994.
Tjian remains an active scientist. His small laboratory group at HHMI’s Janelia Research Campus focuses on the development of new approaches to image biochemical activities in single living cells. He also maintains a research laboratory at UC Berkeley, where he is a professor.
Baroness Manningham-Buller is Chair of The Wellcome Trust, a biomedical research charity based in London, United Kingdom. It was established in 1936 with legacies from the pharmaceutical magnate Sir Henry Wellcome to fund research to improve human and animal health. The aim of the Trust is to “achieve extraordinary improvements in health by supporting the brightest minds“, and in addition to funding biomedical research it supports the public understanding of science. It has an endowment of around £18 billion
Eliza Manningham-Buller was educated at Benenden School and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. She taught for three years before joining MI5 in 1974. After a career which included a posting to the British Embassy in Washington, she became Deputy Director General, with responsibility for operations, before leading the organisation as Director General, 2002-2007.
She was appointed an independent, crossbench peer in the House of Lords in 2008. She has been a member of the Privileges and Conduct Committee and the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy. She now sits on the Science and Technology Committee.
She joined the Wellcome Trust as a Governor in 2008 and the Council of Imperial College in 2009. She was the Chair of Council 2011-15.
She has honorary degrees from Oxford, St Andrews, Leeds, Cranfield and the Open University and has received honorary fellowships from Northampton and Cardiff, City and Guilds and Lady Margaret Hall. She gave the 2011 Reith lectures on ‘Securing Freedom’ with Aung San Suu Kyi.
Harvey V. Fineberg is the president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and interim chief program officer for its Patient Care Program. The foundation was established in September 2000, by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore and his wife Betty, they currently employ 100 people and manage over $6.4 billion of assets,
He previously held the Presidential Chair for 2014-2015 as visiting professor at the University of California, San Francisco. Prior to that, he served as president of the Institute of Medicine from 2002 to 2014 and as provost of Harvard University from 1997 to 2001, following 13 years as dean of the Harvard School of Public Health. He has devoted most of his academic career to the fields of health policy and medical decision-making. His past research has focused on the process of policy development and implementation, assessment of medical technology, evaluation and use of vaccines, and dissemination of medical innovations.
Fineberg chairs the board of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and serves on the boards of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the China Medical Board. He helped found and served as president of the Society for Medical Decision Making and also served as consultant to the World Health Organization.
Fineberg is co-author of the books Clinical Decision Analysis, Innovators in Physician Education and The Epidemic That Never Was, an analysis of the controversial federal immunization program against swine flu in 1976. He has co-edited several books on such diverse topics as AIDS prevention, vaccine safety, understanding risk in society and global health. He has also authored numerous articles published in professional journals. Fineberg is the recipient of several honorary degrees—the Frank A. Calderone Prize in Public Health, the Henry G. Friesen International Prize in Health Research and the Harvard Medal, awarded by the alumni association of the university from which he earned his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees.
Jacquelline Fuller is Director Google.org, the charitable and foundation arm of Google. Google.org believes that tech entrepreneurs are using innovation to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges and invest in teams with bold ideas that create lasting global impact. Each year, they donate over $100 million in grants, 80,000 hours in volunteer time and over $1 billion in products. The foundation manages over $1.84 billion in assets.
Jacquelline joined Google in 2007 and serves as the Managing Director in charge of Google’s philanthropic work and advocacy. Jacquelline previously served as Deputy Director of Global Health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she was a member of the senior management team for eight years. In 2004-2005, Jacquelline and her family moved to Delhi, India where she helped to launch a $300 million health initiative for the Gates Foundation. Prior experience also includes serving as speechwriter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Louis Sullivan. Jacquelline ghostwrote the inspirational autobiography, “Never Forget,” by Kay Coles James. She received her BA in political science from UCLA and a Masters in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. She serves on the board of Eastern Congo Initiative.
Darren Walker is the 10th president of the Ford Foundation, but his connection to the institution and its mission—as a beneficiary, grantee, and grant maker—has spanned his entire life.
As a child, Darren was a member of Head Start’s inaugural class in 1965, before attending Goose Creek, Texas, public schools. At the University of Texas, Pell Grants and scholarships helped finance his college and law school education. Both programs were Ford Foundation-funded pilot initiatives.
After a 10-year career in corporate law and international finance at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and UBS, Darren served for seven years as chief operating officer of Abyssinian Development Corporation, Harlem’s largest community development organization and a Ford Foundation grantee.
From Harlem, he joined the Rockefeller Foundation, where he ultimately rose to vice president and oversaw all domestic and international programs. Nearly a decade later, he was recruited to the Ford Foundation as vice president responsible for education, creativity, and free expression programs, as well as the foundation’s four Africa offices.
In 2013 the Ford Foundation trustees appointed him chief executive, and today he oversees more than $12 billion in assets, $500 million in grants, and 10 international offices. He also serves on various boards—including those of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Friends of the High Line, New York City Ballet, and the Arcus Foundation—and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.[/bios]
Q: Why does philanthropy exist?
[Jeff Raikes] Philanthropy plays at least four key roles in society.
First, it can help fill the gaps created by market failures. The private sector is an effective mechanism to allocate resources in society and to produce better products, goods, and services. But capitalism has its weaknesses. Sometimes markets fail. It’s at those times and in those areas where philanthropy is best suited to step in. In the same way that capitalism is an effective way to produce goods and services for society, I think private philanthropy is a good way to produce social benefit.
Second, philanthropists can take risks that others won’t. The public sector produces goods and services to help improve society, but they do that with tax monies. Taxpayers don’t love it when their governments take significant risk with their tax payments. They want wise stewards of public money and resources. The private sector, on the other hand, is unwilling to take risk without the potential of profit. Philanthropy is not risk constrained in the same way.
Third, philanthropy can help scale good ideas: With our partners, we can identify innovative solutions to challenging problems, test them out, develop the evidence of their efficacy, and then share what we learn and help demonstrate opportunities that can be scaled up and sustained by the private sector, the public sector, or both. Let me give an example: If we provide the “risk capital” to figure out how to reduce rotavirus vaccine prices dramatically, possibly through new scientific formulations, and then share widely how to achieve the price reductions, organisations such as GAVI, which are largely government-funded, can take these innovations and save hundreds of thousands of additional lives.
Finally, philanthropy allows us to connect and share values. I believe that it’s ultimately our hearts and values that draw people to philanthropy, whether that’s working at a foundation or as an individual giver of money or volunteer time. People are moved to help others.
[Dr. Robert Tjian] In the United States, perhaps more so than anywhere else in the world, we have a tradition of philanthropy where very wealthy individuals have a civic-ethic to give back to the community. This could be motivated by personal stories, family experience or by a whole gamut of other reasons. The tradition of philanthropy has propelled the United States in its areas of scientific expertise and economic growth.
There’s a primordial human satisfaction in giving, and we can’t forget that.
It’s fascinating to also note that the success of philanthropy, particularly in the United States, has meant that certain things that should be happening in government and in industry, aren’t… On the one-hand, having philanthropy is spectacularly useful, but in some cases, philanthropy is doing the work that governments and companies should be doing.
[Baroness Manningham-Buller] There is no single reason why philanthropy exists, but the main one is surely the wish of many to help their fellow men. In some respects, philanthropy it is just charity at a bigger scale. Charitable foundations have the benefit of not needing to raise funds so can focus on their work.
[Dr. H. Fineberg] When understanding philanthropy, we need to answer two basic questions. Firstly, why does philanthropy exist, and secondly, what purpose it serves.
I believe philanthropy grows out of a human impulse to be of service, to help, and to make a difference to others. The function of philanthropy in modern society is well-captured by the concept of ‘society’s venture capital’ – it is funding that is applicable to solve problems and create opportunities that otherwise do not naturally arise from the usual public and commercial activity.
[Jacquelline Fuller] It’s important to address the fundamental question of why people who ‘have’ give to those who ‘have not.’ There is clearly a utilitarian or effective-altruism perspective insofar as the next marginal unit of income to me, if I am a high-income privileged person, can have a much higher impact on the life of someone else in the world. This behaviour makes a huge amount of moral and rational sense according to a lot of our faiths and codes of conduct.
If we step outside this rational-agent perspective, we see that we’re living in this marvellous era where there is significant research on happiness, all of which shows that giving makes us happy.
There are many studies that show that, after a certain level, more income doesn’t increase our well-being. That marginal dollar, given away, makes us happier than if we were to spend it on ourselves!
When I share that thought with others, sometimes people say, “well yeah, but happier people give? Isn’t it more likely that you would give and be generous if you’re feeling that you’re in a safe and joyful place yourself?” Research shows us that it’s not necessarily that happy people give but rather, that giving makes us happy.
Research shows us that giving with empathy is what makes us happier. If we give out of a sense of duty or peer-pressure, you won’t get the benefit… but if you give with empathy, it actually increases your health stats! You have a longer-life, better health, happiness and more!
Philanthropy is part of our human-behaviour, it’s part of who we are.
[Darren Walker] The impulse behind philanthropy comes from the fact that human beings are inherently generous. We’re social creatures, and we care about our families and communities. For the most part, we want to bring about a better world—whether we define “better” individually, in our community, or our faith tradition—and we dedicate time and energy to efforts that make this possible. Of course, almost all of the institutions of philanthropy exist in part because of tremendous amounts of privilege and inequality—and this is a great tension in our work.
Q: How have your life-experiences shaped your world-view?
[John Paul Dejoria] Growing up in Los Angeles at the age of two it was just my mother, brother and I. We had very little but didn’t know it. We had a very loving mother. At 6 years old, my mom took my brother and I downtown for Christmas to see the store window displays, trains, puppets and holiday festivities. She gave my brother and I a dime and asked us each to hold it and together put it into a red bucket towards a man ringing a red bell. This was the early 50’s. We said, “Mom, why did we give him a dime when that could buy us two soda pops?” My mom said, “boys we just donated to the Salvation Army. They help people that do not have homes or food. Always remember in life there will always be someone that will be in more in need.” We could only afford a dime that year, but we gave to help out others! I never forgot it!
I had a paper route at 11 years old with my brother and I’ve worked ever since. Before or after school and during the summers, I worked the same route which quickly carried on into full time jobs. In the early days, we were just happy to have a job and it was a special thing. We gave the money to my mother so we can live a better life. Things have changed a little bit today but in those days, we just felt good being able to get jobs as kids.
Thanks to my experiences I grew up knowing it was an honor to have a job and that we can help those less fortunate no matter how little it was. It’s something that stays with me until this very day.
[Craig Newmark] I used to be fairly cynical, but in the last twenty years I’ve learned that people are fundamentally good, and that there are only a small number of bad actors. However, I’ve also learned the well-meaning people can be very gullible and easily manipulated by bad actors.
Ultimately, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice” and I’ve learned that I can, in some very small way, help protect and possibly accelerate that process.
[Michael Holthouse] I grew up in a small town in rural Indiana, and if I look back at some of my experiences in those early-years, I can see hints of where my entrepreneurial spark came from.
My school was in the city, and one of my first ‘businesses,’ emerged from me spotting an opportunity to buy products from the city-kids, selling them to kids in my rural town (who simply wouldn’t have been able to get them otherwise!). This distribution business was doing really-well, until my school caught me with a fistful of money in my pocket! What was I supposed to do? I couldn’t start a lemonade stand, only 10 cars passed our house every day!
One of the most constant factors of my early-life was hard work. From working on our farm, to working in my family furniture business, I was taught to be responsible, to work hard and be entrepreneurial.
Q: What is the motivation for philanthropists to give?
[Jeff Raikes] Warren Buffett often says that he was the winner of the “ovarian lottery.” He was born in a place and at a time that allowed him to achieve all that he has. My wife and I believe that we won a “career lottery” of sorts – we were at Microsoft during the early high-tech boom. We wanted to invest the wealth we acquired back into society.
We believe firmly that great philanthropy is not about writing a check. It’s about giving your time, your energy, and your talents to create the kind of world you want to live in.
At Microsoft, I learned that if you really want to make an impact on the world you need big aspirations. We had the dream of a computer on every desk and in every home, and that was a very motivating vision for us. I pursued that dream for 27 years. As my Microsoft career developed, so did my interest in philanthropy. Together with Tricia, who was also a Microsoft employee, we participated in the Microsoft United Way campaign. Together we co-chaired the largest United Way campaign in history, delving into local issues such as homelessness. And, at the urging of Mary Gates (Bill’s mother) Tricia helped start a local Boys and Girls Club.
The Gates Foundation is also a place where we dream big. Our work is guided by a simple belief that all lives have equal value, and in the potential of each individual life. We believe that whether a child is born in Brazzaville or London shouldn’t determine whether she will have access to health, education, and opportunity.
Around the world today, there are a growing number of people who have amassed considerable wealth who are exploring the possibilities of their own philanthropic journeys. We have an incredible opportunity to encourage each other to become philanthropists and have a positive impact on the world.
What excites me most about philanthropy today is that we’re not standing still. We are finding new ways to pursue and measure our impact. We are sharing best practices. We are getting better at what we do. But we need to accelerate progress by embracing technology, encouraging greater transparency, and engaging our grantees, partners, and critics as a team.
[Michael Holthouse] Here’s the truth, way more entrepreneurial ventures fail than succeed. That’s a hard-truth to stomach, but the potential of the entrepreneurial journey makes this worthwhile. Entrepreneurship has always been, and still is, the greatest way to acquire wealth. Whilst entrepreneurship and wealth are therefore interrelated, I don’t believe that’s the primary driver for most entrepreneurs, albeit there’s nothing wrong with wanting to generate wealth!
The majority of entrepreneurs are driven by a desire to create value, to serve others, and to provide something that’s lacking in a marketplace. They enjoy the freedom to create their own path, and to work in an area they’re interested in and passionate about. That’s the real reward, but it does then allow them to make impact in their communities in the same way they do in the commercial world.
For me, philanthropy is central to who I am, my faith and my family. My grandfather has always been an inspiration for me. He was involved in all-kinds of community leadership, had a successful business in a small-town and was heavily involved in junior achievement. This was also reflected in my entire-family, who have always been about giving-back to the community.
When I sold my last big company to Sprint, we decided to create a family-foundation to help us drive and manage our philanthropic efforts. The big question then came…. What were we going to do? With so many areas of acute need around the world, it’s a real soul-searching process to decide where you really want to have impact.
I know many people that throw money at initiatives and organisations, but sadly, their philanthropic investments don’t have much social return. You have to anchor your philanthropy in something you believe in.
As a technology guy, I’ve spent most of my life looking into the future. I know for a fact that the things we do today, predict what our future will look like… and central to that future? Our kids. We have to think really hard about what we, as a society, can do to help the youth of our country, our cities and the world. We need to help them grow, so they can make better decisions than us, have better opportunities than us, and change the world in more ways than we can.
Philanthropy is very different to what people think of as charity, and that’s important. Charity is about acute and immediate need, it’s about someone in trouble who needs help now. Philanthropy is an investment in the areas of need that must be dealt with proactively, by society. Philanthropy is a way for society and individuals to run experiments and figure out what our future should be like….
[Dr. H. Fineberg] The reasons why people engage in philanthropy vary based on the individual, their circumstances, and over time. For example, in the earliest days of philanthropy (in the modern US sense), during the era of the Carnegie’s and Rockefeller’s, Carnegie famously wrote that ‘he who dies wealthy dies disgraced.’ He wrote that sentiment at age 31, and began his philanthropy at 33. It’s important to know that, as we usually only see pictures of him as quite an elderly gentleman. He had a remarkably successful career in business that enabled him, at an early stage in his life, to begin that philanthropic journey. It would seem he was motivated by a sense of moral purpose, in which he saw firstly the use of wealth as a privilege he could bestow on wider society, and secondly that he, by virtue of accumulating it, had an obligation to expend it for the public good.
William and Flora Hewlett, for example, established the Hewlett Foundation,because they cared deeply about a number of important problems in society including education, population, environment, and the performing arts. They set aside their fortune to accomplish good in those particular areas.
Now, working at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, I see a similar kind of charitable impulse behind the philanthropy. The founders have chosen to direct their philanthropy in those areas of society where they care deeply, and where they believe they can make a real and lasting difference. In the case of the Moore Foundation, this includes the broad fields of scientific inquiry, and in particular basic science. The Moore Foundation’s work also embraces environmental conservation, improving the experience and outcomes of patient care and preserving the special character of the Bay Area of California. The founders are motivated by a desire to create lasting change for the better in society, and to apply their resources in those areas in which they want to make a difference.
[Darren Walker] There are many – generosity, a desire for recognition, a sense of obligation, civic duty, self-interest, a desire to leave a better world for the next generation, and yes, for some, a desire to avoid taxes. The brilliance of efforts like the Giving Pledge has been recognizing this multiplicity of motivations and allowing people the latitude to engage for whatever combination of reasons are right for them.
Q: How does philanthropy sit alongside other forms of organisation?
[Jeff Raikes] The issues we are trying to address at the Gates Foundation are certainly big enough and difficult enough for many funders and partners to be involved. Even within the areas where we invest, we are just one of many players. There are significant needs around the world and close to home where funders have ample opportunity to make aligned, complementary or entirely distinct contributions.
I believe the philanthropic sector functions best when we are keenly aware of and clear about our own and others’ passions, interests and capabilities. We learn faster. We combine efforts or go our separate ways sooner because we are more conscious of when it makes sense to do so. Intentional crowding in or crowding out is a good thing for the sector.
The foundation emphasises partnerships, and looks to foster innovation, often pursuing new technologies or delivery schemes. For example, in India, we have enjoyed a tremendous partnership with the National AIDS Control Organisation to expand HIV prevention through the Avahan India AIDS initiative.
[Sir Ratan Tata] The most healthy role of philanthropy in a country like ours [India] would be to join hands with the government. Private-partnerships exist more in the context of process, delivery and funding. The government’s role is to have the machinery to reach the country, and to ensure that the delivery that is supposed to reach the people actually does; and that funds don’t get bifurcated or siphoned elsewhere.
[Baroness Manningham-Buller] Philanthropy is independent. Neither governments not the private sector can hope to address all the issues which face the world. Nor can philanthropy, but it can try. The Wellcome Trust aims to improve human health, which is a high ambition.
Q: Is philanthropy ‘”everyone’s” responsibility, or do you see it as something which society believes only to come from those who have achieved large successes?
[John Paul Dejoria] I feel it is the duty for every human and company to do something to either make their community, their city, their state, their country or the world a better place to live. You don’t have to contribute financially, but rather your time, smile and good wishes to start the ball rolling. Time is a very valuable thing, when you contribute your time to others- you’ve contributed something of great value.
Q: What can philanthropy learn from entrepreneurship, business and enterprise?
[Jeff Raikes] Government, business, and philanthropy make up a “three-legged stool,” where each leg can be mutually supportive of one another and promote social good. There are things each sector can learn from one another and areas where each can make a unique contribution.
That said, we often say that it’s harder for foundations to measure impact because we don’t contend with market forces and the reliable feedback markets provide. But even at Microsoft we had to go for long periods of time without any real market indicators. Sometimes you just have to set your own milestones, learn as much as you can from available data, and then go by instinct.
There are some aspects of the private sector — long-term R&D, for example — that are very similar to the work of philanthropy. In that type of situation you have to have a clear vision, define milestones, and track progress using a mix of best judgment and self-criticism, accepting and trusting that it may take a long time to see any meaningful impact.
In philanthropy, we don’t have sales results or stock prices to measure success. There also isn’t competition, at least not at first glance. We’re all here trying to change the world, right? But I have learned that while maybe we can’t say that we have competitors, we do have opponents. People and organisations that fight against the very change that we believe is necessary to positively impact the world. And they often have a very legitimate, different point of view about achieving the same goal, or they may believe it’s just not the right goal.
In this sense, competition is good in philanthropy. Opponents are good. They help foundations make smarter choices. They test conviction and theories of change. They can be seen as part of the “team” that will drive us forward to greater impact.
[Sir Ratan Tata] Our philanthropic trusts have hardly changed in their approach in over 100 years. I’ve been trying to make them more result oriented, and to give them a better understanding of how to measure effectiveness. It’s important that we try to run them more like business, albeit they’re not quite like businesses due to the unique nature in which cash flows into the trust and beneficiaries.
[Eli Broad] Philanthropy is not charity. Charity is simply writing cheques- and while we do some of that also, philanthropy is different, Larry Summers (who is on our board) once said, “…if it’s going to happen anyway, we’re not going to do it.”
We’re looking to do things that nobody else is willing to do, we want to make a difference 20-30 years from now and we need to find the people who have the ability to make it happen.
Our foundation is different to most others in that 90% of what we do is driven by ideas we have internally rather than from people coming to us. We’re continually looking for opportunities across the broad range of activities from education, scientific and medical research and the arts.
George Bernard Shaw once said, “…the reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man”. That might be a little bit of an exaggeration, but my wife gave me that as a plaque some years after we were married- and I believe it’s right. What we’re doing in education reform and in other areas is not always popular.
You have to have a deep belief and a commitment to do what’s right, even if it’s not the popular thing to do and even if you get pushback from established interests that don’t want to see change.
[John Paul Dejoria] We have helped many organizations that we believed in start with a personal donation become organized and little by little self-sufficient. Just like an entrepreneur, we start with little to nothing and build up, include others in it and now they’re self-sufficient and more people benefit.
[Dr. H. Fineberg] Foundations are nonprofit, but must not be any less ambitious than any commercial enterprise. Part of the opportunity and responsibility for foundation leaders is to set high aspirations for improvements in the world. These aspirations are different to the measures one uses in business, but must be equally high in their aim.
Regardless of whether you are in a business, government agency or a foundation, there are areas of commonality, but also distinctive features.
One of the peculiarities of a foundation is that they tend to be large when compared to other organisations in terms of assets, but also rather compact in terms of number of employees. There are many of our grantees that have significantly smaller assets than the foundation, but who have many more employees. Managing the foundation and deploying the resources sensibly and to good effect does not necessarily require the same elaborate organisational arrangements that field-operations may have.
[Jacquelline Fuller] Google.org is a very entrepreneurial organisation, even just looking at our team and our approach. We are a small nimble team, and take the hacker approach to philanthropy. We conduct our research, get our data, build a product or initiative, try it in the real-world, gather data, launch and iterate. This is a tech-entrepreneur approach, and is quite different to what you see elsewhere in philanthropy.
We do tend to invest in entrepreneurs who are bringing the promise of technology and innovation into areas where the market will not bring these advances fast enough.
Q: How do foundations address the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ around big questions in society?
[Dr. H. Fineberg] The how is intrinsic in designing a foundation’s strategy. Knowing what you are trying to accomplish is only the first stage, you then need to deal with the tools and approaches that will effect the desired changes in the world. In our case, this means we look for the very best people in the field, who are poised to do exciting work in their field, who want to solve novel problems and make big leaps, but who lack the resources to do so- and that is where we come in.
We also have the opportunity to help build fields where the wider community has latent expertise and interest, but has not yet found the problem or solution-set around which to organise. Foundations can strategically make investments that can help to build a field. Sometimes this can mean investing in people; human resources may be the missing piece. Sometimes this can mean the creation, promotion and support of a consortium of participants; for example, in some of our conservation areas and ocean planning projects, we set the table for those guests to participate, share and accomplish change that otherwise they could not have accomplished independently.
Foundation work can also address questions of policy, from business, government or other areas, and can do so through education, communication or exposure to a problem or opportunity in a different way. This is why foundations often support those organisations involved in education, or who wish to bring about new policy solutions.
The greatest challenge for achieving philanthropic goals is strategic, and relates to understanding where you can exert an influence.
Q: What are the characteristics of a successful foundation?
[Darren Walker] In my experience, there are basically four main characteristics. First, for any foundation, it begins with a committed board of trustees. The best foundation boards provide vision, clear policy guidance, develop a constructive relationship with the chief executive, give appropriate discretion to the staff, and serve as faithful ambassadors of the institution. We feel extremely blessed in this regard at the Ford Foundation.
Second, a successful foundation, in our experience, also has a clear and compelling vision for how it can contribute to the common good. That vision must be based on a holistic understanding of the assets the organization possesses, the partners it must engage, and the causes where it can make the most difference.
Third, the most effective foundations hire program staff who have personal experience with the nonprofit sector and can relate directly to the experiences of their grantees. Their intimate knowledge of the sector helps them have a thoughtful, measured, and nuanced approach to evaluation and metrics, which seeks to lift up the capacity of their grantee partners to continually assess and improve their own performance.
Last, but not least, every successful foundation embraces an ecosystem view, and tries to understand how the consequences of its own changes and strategic decisions affect the fields in which it operates. As a result, these institutions approach change with sensitivity and deliberation.
Q: What is the role of philanthropy in science
[Dr. Robert Tjian] As time has passed, organisations such as corporation and governments have grown- and with that has come constraints and conservatism. The hallmark of private non-profit foundations and high net wealth individuals has always been their willingness to take risks, and have a longer runway for projects to become effective.
For basic science, those discoveries with no obvious, immediate, application — which ultimately drive the future advances in society — there is little support, in any nation. The probability of success is low, and so people consider basic science to be high risk… But here’s the thing, when you do succeed, you hit a home run!
Until recently, the United States government did well at supporting basic science, but under pressure from congress, the shift has gone to more translational and applied research. The situation is the same in companies… If a pharmaceutical company is already spending $2 billion on research per-drug, they simply don’t have the capacity to do very-undirected research on top of that.
Somebody has to step-up and fund that high-risk basic research that yields real transformational discoveries, and that’s where philanthropy is essential.
[Baroness Manningham-Buller] Governments, the bio-science and pharmaceutical business all invest in medical research. Philanthropies and charities are a third way of investing. They are needed because of the scale of the problems and because it is easier for them to take a long term view. It’s important to note that philanthropy in science also extends to the humanities, the arts and social science, which can all illuminate and help us to understand human health.
The funding of bio-medical research is at its most effective if it is patient and long term, and is willing to take some big risks.
Q: How does philanthropy impact education within the sciences?
[Dr. Robert Tjian] Education is a complex area, with many layers. You can talk about K-12 grade schools, universities or even educating the general public. All these areas are critically important for our mission to develop a robust scientific enterprise. Organisations must keep an eye on the education component of their work, after all- that’s our workforce! If we don’t have a reasonably good education system, we won’t get the talent we need in the sciences. Likewise, a well informed public on issues of science is important to gain support and understanding of how science works for the general good.
The biggest challenge that we, and every organisation in our world, faces in trying to improve the education system is that it’s so difficult to scale. We might be able to do a wonderful job in a particular community, but to scale that work across the entire United States, or globally? That’s a real challenge. We’re putting more resources into training teachers than students, to give us a multiplier effect.
General public education is a huge challenge too, and we’re still in our infancy in trying to develop the right approach here. We’ve developed a documentary film division, which may seem unusual for a science organisation. We felt it was really necessary! Major policy decisions are being made by powerful people who have little or no knowledge of how science works and how truths about the physical and biological world are obtained!
There’s an appalling level of ignorance about how science, as a self-correcting process,works, and we need more education to fix that.
[Baroness Manningham-Buller] The Wellcome Trust rarely supports scientists who have not considered how to engage the public in their work, at least at some level. And we give strong support to the promotion of science education.
Q: How has technology empowered ‘the voiceless’ and ‘powerless’?
[Craig Newmark] People use Internet and related tech to make a difference in their day to day lives, like putting food on the table, including even getting a table and a roof under which to place the table. That also includes working with others to get clean water, sanitary facilities and safe banking.
Once basic needs are satisfied, then people can work together to help others, mutually raising their standard of living and then to build representative government, often in an atmosphere free of censorship.
Q: What is the role of philanthropy in global policy and advocacy?
[Jeff Raikes] One of the most important drivers of a foundation’s or philanthropist’s impact is access to knowledge of where to give and how to give. We should be thinking hard about how we share with others what we are doing and learning. Advocacy is one way for us to share what we’re learning, and to create support or momentum for social change.
At the Gates Foundation, we see a definite role for ourselves in shining a spotlight on inequity, and making sure policymakers see both the challenges and possibilities in tackling tough social problems. The foundation has capital at its disposal to create change, but it also has knowledge, leadership, and a voice. We can use those tools as much as we do grantmaking to help achieve our mission, in partnership with others around the world.
[Baroness Manningham-Buller] Each foundation will have its own policy on engaging with governments and international organisations on policy. The Wellcome Trust regards it as important that it should make its voice heard on issues of relevance to its core purpose.
[Darren Walker] When I think about the role of philanthropy, I come back something Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said towards the end of his life. He said, “Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.”
And it gets back at that tension I mentioned earlier—that we are products of the very systems and structures we hope to correct. This is true in every hall of power, in every nation in the world—the people who benefit most from the status quo are the ones empowered to change it. But why change it if you’re benefiting?
And so, we have to be willing to work ourselves out of a job, and doing that means advocating for an awareness of our privilege, for interrogating these systemic problems, and dismantling or surrendering that privilege wherever we can.
Q: What has been the impact of the giving pledge?
(Editor’s Note: The Giving Pledge is a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy)
[Eli Broad] I was at that first meeting at Rockefeller University with David Rockefeller, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and others. The idea was to get a lot of people interested in giving, and that we would all be examples of why to do it… by telling others how we got great satisfaction from it. Our hope was that others would emulate what we were doing.
The giving pledge started with just 15 individuals, and now has over 80 people.
Q: How is philanthropy leveraging technology?
[Jeff Raikes] Technology and social media today are making the capture and sharing of data, information, and knowledge easier, faster, and cheaper. These help us develop stronger feedback loops, and create stronger, more efficient philanthropy. Let me share a couple of examples.
In the U.S., the Council on Foundations and TechSoup Global have developed an online repository calledNGOSource for collecting basic information about individual charities around the world. This online knowledge sharing could streamline an inefficient, redundant, and costly process called “equivalency determinations” and help more philanthropic dollars get across borders to where they are most needed.
A couple of years ago, as part of a U.S. Department of Education effort to invest in innovative education programs, we were part of a collaboration of education funders that developed a website called the i3 Foundation Registry. This is an online proposal repository for applicants to the U.S. government’s grant funding pool for education to share their plans simultaneously with interested private foundations and individual philanthropists. The registry enables funders to privately share with each other what proposals they are considering, which organisations and projects they are interested in, and which ones they ultimately fund, all via Facebook or Twitter-like status updates. In a few short months, the participating funding community grew from the original 12 to 46, and the successful applicants to the U.S. Department of Education program raised their required private match dollars in record time.
Philanthropy should do more to harness the power of technology to make us all more effective and efficient. We should have every tool to create change at our disposal and that includes the use of technology, information, and data on par with that of industries. Technology itself is not a “silver bullet” – but we can add it to our other strategies to help accelerate and improve our efforts.
Q: What does philanthropy mean to you?
[Jeff Raikes] Tricia and I believe that our success, and the opportunities we’ve been able to provide for our family, have been supported by societal institutions – schools, communities, health institutions, and more. Philanthropy is an opportunity to invest our resources back into society to build the social, spiritual, and material wealth that can help the lives of others. Our passion for humanity leads us to philanthropic choices and investments to share our wealth for others.
[Eli Broad] This city and country have been very good to me, and my family, and because of this we have a desire to give back through philanthropy. We do this in a number of areas; education reform, scientific and medical research, and the arts.
Andrew Carnegie said one time, “…he who dies with wealth, dies with shame…” I think you have an obligation to give back, to make things better and to create institutions that didn’t exist before.
Everyone can contribute something. If people don’t have the financial resources, they can certainly commit their expertise and their time to various organisations. We have been very fortunate and have quite a staff at our organisation to do the things we are doing, but everyone can do something at different scales.
[Sir Ratan Tata] To me, philanthropy is about raising the quality of life of the people around us; and making a difference to the manner in which they live or subsist.
I am reminded of a billboard that used to exist for Air India which- for some reason- has never left me and has a bearing on philanthropy. The billboard said something along the lines of: My child complained about how unfortunate he was because he didn’t have any shoes, until I met the other child who had no feet. It’s always struck me that we look at our misfortune, but very often there are people who suffer much, much more. Philanthropy is really trying to uplift those people who are less-fortunate.
The philanthropic trusts of our group have been in existence for over 100 years. Before I became Group Chairman, I was a trustee of the trusts and have been sensitive to what we do for the communities in which we have operated. That’s where my personal philanthropic journey began. For me, philanthropy has now intensified. The need to address the disparities, misfortunes and lack of prosperity that exist in society has become more apparent to me as I have gone on in life, and it fills me with the need to do something.
[Anousheh Ansari] I feel that I’ve been fortunate in so many different ways. I was born and raised in Iran, and lived there during the early part of the revolution and war. I come from a middle-class family, and we were never very wealthy and when we moved to the US, we faced many difficulties. I know how it feels to be on the other side of the table, and understand how some of the programmes and projects that were available to me- such as scholarships, student loans and so on- helped me and family establish a new life in a new country. We didn’t just establish, but we were able to reach out for our dreams and really succeed. All this tells me that with a little help and support, things can change- not just on an individual level- but at a global level too.
I look at philanthropy as an investment. I don’t do it to gain brownie points with god. I do it because I believe in investing within the community and world I live in. It may be an investment in an individual, or an idea that can change the world.
The terminology I prefer is social investment, but many people use charity and philanthropy interchangeably. Ultimately it’s an investment- a high risk one- where the return you get may not be monetary, but rather the satisfaction of change or success.
[John Paul Dejoria] Whether it was dime at six years old to the money I have today, it makes me feel good to be fortunate enough to help so many others. We get so many calls and letters, unfortunately we can’t help everyone’s requests but we do help enough to make a large difference. I always say, “SUCCESS UNSHARED IS FAILURE.” It truly makes me and others feel good when we know we’re doing good for the planet and people to make this world a better place to live- simply because we are here…asking absolutely nothing in return. It makes us feel really good to continue doing good.
[Craig Newmark] I’m a nerd, old-school, and have learned to know when enough is enough. Specifically, once I have enough for my family and myself to live well enough, then it’s more satisfying to make a difference.
Philanthropy, for me, involves giving back to others to that they might live the best lives they feel possible. That’s not noble, or altruistic, it’s just that a nerd in this sense has different aspect than normal people, and I don’t need much.
Seriously, it’s not altruistic, I just feel that a nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do.
Q: What is the role of volunteering in corporate philanthropy?
[Jacquelline Fuller] When we’re making an investment in a cause, we also look for how we could leverage the rest of who we are, as Google. Often that means we bring our employees, our Googlers, to help alongside that grant.
We’ve been very active in trying to increase the percentage of women and under-represented minorities in computer science. We’ve seen first-hand the lack of diversity in technology, and how that impacts not just the individuals who are missing out on a booming industry- but also the societal perspective where we simply aren’t getting the diversity of backgrounds, interests, cares and passions developing the next generation of products and services. This is an area we want to bring change, and so we’ve invested in groups like Code.Org and Girls Who Code and we’ve invested many hundreds, if not thousands of Googlers who become coaches, mentors and help these programmes- bringing coding to people and places where it’s not currently being taught.
Q: What is the role of corporate philanthropy on a company’s immediate geography?
[Jacquelline Fuller] Given all of the problems in the world, and all of the areas where we could roll-up our sleeves and get involved, how do we prioritise? Well… number one on our priority list are the communities where we live and work.
It’s important to us to be good citizens where we have our major offices, and where many of our Googlers live and work. We work with our local teams everywhere we have offices, and engage in local-giving. For example, we’ve run two impact challenges in the UK where we went out to every non-profit in the country and gave them an open question, ‘how would you use $500,000 plus innovation to change the world?’ and we supported winners coming out of that.
Q: What are the opportunities and strategies of corporate philanthropy?
[Jacquelline Fuller] There is a huge opportunity in corporate philanthropy.
In the USA, the total amount of philanthropy is around $300 billion per year… Of that, less than 5% comes from corporations. If companies did step-up and started giving in ways that are really aligned to who they are, their strengths and their employee’s passions, it could be a huge boost to our communities. By our math, if companies gave 1% of their net-profits to philanthropic endeavours, it would raise an additional $120 billion each year. This would not only bring much-needed resource into the philanthropic sector, but also provides real benefits to the businesses themselves.
Day in and day out, we see in our own employees, how important it is to have something like Google.org that they can identify with, and support. It’s one of the leading indicators we have for employee retention, and hiring. Our approach to philanthropy is often why people choose Google over another firm.
The younger generation coming into the workplace take much more notice of the culture of a company they’re joining and how that expresses and resonates with their own values. People like to be working on teams where they feel like they’re making a difference or solving big problems that really matter to people.
Picking the most successful of our philanthropic ventures would be like asking me to choose my favourite child, but I’ll share one that’s on my mind…. More than half of our giving is tied to our local geographies, but we also work on our global-scope, where we take on issues around the world. In the past, we’ve done this quite generally looking for any approach that’s truly innovative and sector-busting but this past-year, we tried a new experiment…..
We decided to fund one topic and decided to fund projects that were aimed at people living with physical and cognitive disabilities. We had an open-call and awarded $20 million in grants to some really clever org’s doing some really great work. We also rallied Google as a company and wanted to see how we could use the rest of our assets… this led to us running things like an internal innovation sprint where we had our engineers and product managers working on new products and features Google could produce to help this target audience. We also did outside hack-athons, make-athons, and built a lot of partnerships to raise awareness. This was a really different approach, and we learned a lot – but it’s certainly a model we’re going to continue with.
Q: How can corporate philanthropy speak to policy and advocacy?
[Jacquelline Fuller] Companies need to be careful when engaging in advocacy. If you try and weigh-in on every issue, especially where- frankly- you don’t have strength or understanding? There’s a chance you won’t be very effective… but done right, it can make a huge difference.
At Google, we were an early supporter of LGBTQ rights, both as a human rights issue as well as something very important to our employees. Google has a company-value that we take very seriously, which is that we want the company to be somewhere that people can bring their whole selves to work. When Proposition 8 came up in California, Google weighed in early, wrote editorials and vocally supported the rights of our employees and other citizens in California, to marry. We did some grant-making, and levered this with advocacy.
Q: What do you see as the difference between charity and philanthropy?
[Sir Ratan Tata] I’ve always viewed charity as more of a handout, while philanthropy strengthens the ability of the beneficiary to lead a respectful life or to have a quality of life based on that is based on things other than handouts for example; investments that have been made in education, medicine, nutrition and so forth.
[John Paul Dejoria] In essence, charity and philanthropy are the same. Charity giving is more aligned with money and not so much individual time. Philanthropy is more of a practice and way of being.
[Craig Newmark] There are way too many definitions of both words, and sometimes to some people they mean the same, and to others, there’re nuanced differences, and there’s little use in semantic differentiation.
Q: Why focus on people rather than projects?
[Dr. Robert Tjian] In our experimentation of how to make maximum use of our funds, the most successful way has been to focus on people rather than projects. It is very difficult for anybody, even experts to judge the potential of a project, particularly if that project is truly pioneering and we have no comparable or basis to make an informed judgement! In our experience, the best way we have in determining whether or not to back a project is the past history of success of the individual who’s proposing it.
Someone can come to you with a wonderful idea, and you really can’t tell if it is a wonderful idea or not- but by looking at their past history you can tell if they’re creative, persistent and technically sound, and therefore have the ability to make it work.
As CEO and President of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, my job is to be an effective talent scout! I’m scouring the world looking for scientific talent… and when I find that talent? I give them the resources to follow their dream, to follow their nose, and to develop what they’re working on. We never dictate to our scientists what they should be working on!
We review our scientists every 5 years, without exception. Along with the philosophy of funding people not projects, we evaluate those people regularly. It doesn’t matter if you have a Nobel Prize or not, we’re going to evaluate you like everyone else! Sometimes when very prominent scientists come up for review, there is a certain tendency to judge them slightly differently to others- and it’s my job to hold the reviewer’s feet to the fire! Our instructions to our reviewers is to examine that individual’s work over the past 5 years, not what they did 25 years ago. Those individuals we are reviewing are not being compared against other people, but rather- we’re comparing them to themselves! At the height of their career. What we’re really asking someone is, ‘What have you done in the past 5 years that’s better than what you did in the last 10?’
We don’t limit the areas of research our scientists engage in — we’ve got projects in computational biology, microscope development, chemical biology, bio-engineering, investigating the microbiome, plant biology and many aspects of biomedical research . There are certain areas we haven’t entered, such as geophysics and astronomy, but we’re covering a pretty-large swath of the life sciences. The name of our organisation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute may seem a bit of a misnomer, as not everything we do is directly connected with medicine. When we went into supporting plant biology for example, I could make the argument that it’s just as valid as our research in C. elegans or Yeast- as it informs us about many biological pathways that are useful in understanding human disease.
From 1985 to the present, the range of science we’ve been supporting has broadened significantly, but what hasn’t changed is our emphasis on people. We don’t really dictate what scientists should be working on, and more importantly… If someone is selected to be a Hughes investigator because of their work on viruses for example, and if they come in 5 years later and say, ‘Gee, I decided not to continue studying viruses and instead have been working on developmental biology in Drosophila, and here’s what I’ve done in the past 5 years in that field…’ then you know what? If the discoveries in the new area of research are as impactful or better than what might have been anticipated, then it is fine with us… I give that example because that’s actually what happened to me during my early career as an HHMI investigator!
Q: How do campuses and spaces benefit foundation work?
[Dr. Robert Tjian] The core value of spaces are not the buildings themselves, but rather the way that laboratory and work environments are set up to enable maximum collaboration between laboratories. In an ideal space, you feel open- you can’t tell where one lab finishes and another begins… it feels integrated.
The fact that our Janelia Research Campus is a magnificent building is almost secondary to the fact that it was designed to enable maximum interaction and collaboration between our scientists and researchers – to foster a culture of creativity, innovation, collaboration and discovery.
[Darren Walker] In order to solve these great big problems, we will always need to bring people together—local experts, academics, NGO leaders, business people—and spaces give us an opportunity to do that. It’s the reason we have regional offices around the world, so that we can host gatherings wherever we work.
Our building in New York, where my office is, has a lot of different people and ideas coming through constantly. With all the millions of people from around the world who visit this city each year, with the UN at our doorstep and Grand Central Station just two blocks away, the Ford Foundation has become a unique gathering place for those involved in the enterprise of social innovation and social justice.
We’re excited to be embarking upon a major renewal of our building, and we think how we renovate can reflect our mission, and that our work will be enabled by our new workspace, in part by creating more of these spaces to convene and connect.
Q: How did you choose the areas [and methods] of philanthropy you engage in?
[Jeff Raikes] As parents, Tricia and I have a strong affinity to the opportunities and challenges for youth – they are the future of our society, of our world. With our own children we have observed the challenges that middle school children face – that tough period of early adolescence – when bullying and other negative social behaviors can develop. At our own foundation, the Raikes Foundation, we call this period the “Middle Shift”. We discovered relevant research on “student agency” – the academic mindsets and learning strategies that help students focus on positive behaviors that support better performance in the classroom, and ultimately success in life. So now we’re deepening our work on assessments of student agency, teaching behaviors that instill it, and classroom context that supports it.
In parallel to this, and through our work with United Way and the Gates Foundation, we learned there are multiple segments of homelessness, such as chronic homelessness and family homelessness. And we discovered a gap in how our communities address another segment, youth and young adult homelessness. So Tricia took a leadership role in our community to drive toward a systemic change in addressing this need, and was recognized as a White House Champion of Change for the innovative approach she and other leaders are taking.
[Eli Broad] It came about in different ways… I started by giving money to Michigan State– where I went to school- establishing an endowment for the business school and graduate school of management. We’ve always enjoyed arts and we began collecting, and eventually I became the founding chairman of the Museum of Contemporary Art. This led to our creation of an art foundation where we lend works of art to museums and University art galleries around the world.
Education came later, as did science and medicine. Education came about as a result of my travels to India, China, Korea, Japan and Northern European nations. I saw how well they educate their young people and how poorly we were doing. I felt this was the biggest problem America had- it was the civil rights issue of the 21st century. It was a security issue- financially and otherwise. That’s how we got involved in education reform. We got involved by creating a number of programmes in different cities, and eventually the biggest prize in education to showcase school districts that are doing a good job.
Scientific and medical research was really opportunistic. It started with the fact that one of our sons has Crohns disease. After going to UCLA medical library, I saw that nobody really knew the cause of Crohns. With everything going on in medical science, there are many young investigators and PhD’s with theories, who can’t get funding. This led us to get into the venture research business- it’s been very successful. We’ve given over 250 grants in 12 years, and many of these people have gone on- after getting our seed money- to get funding from federal sources such as the NIH and National Cancer Institute and many global institutions. The Broad Institute (a partnership between Harvard and MIT) was a great opportunity that we saw.
In terms of our civic activities… Cities are not remembered for their lawyers, business-men or accountants- they are remembered for their arts- and architecture is the mother of all the arts. This is why we’ve been involved in many architecture projects, and we feel very good about that.
[Sir Ratan Tata] The foundations have always had certain areas in which they engage; medical-assistance, education, uplift of rural communities, provision of water, agriculture and so on. I have been trying to interject yet another area; health and nutrition to infants. This is affecting the next generation of kids that are born in India, and we are attempting to deal with malnutrition in the mother, the infant, and to make a difference. This involves purified and safe drinking water, education, low cost medical assistance and many other areas.
Our trusts have developed holistically, and now we want to uplift the children of tomorrow.
[Craig Newmark] Ultimately, it’d be fun to have civilization wide impact, and that motivates my interest in a trustworthy press, one where you don’t always have to worry about news lying to you. I like to say that “the press is the immune system of democracy.”
Other areas resonate with me personally, like veterans and military families. I can only guess that, while growing up, I saw a lot of returning Vietnam veterans being treated badly, and felt that was wrong. Now, I help.
[Dr. H. Fineberg] Foundations often engage in areas that are not only diverse, but which have enormous breadth. One has to be selective, in order to make a difference in a way that is measurable and meaningful.
Measurability is one of the critical elements that the Moore Foundation, from day one, has taken into account. The ability to know and detect the degree to which you have succeeded is critical.
We ask four key questions when considering potential areas of investment.
- Is it important? The issue must really matter, and it should really make a difference to choose that particular line of investment.
- Can we make a lasting difference? The foundation must have a comparative advantage or distinct ability to effect positive change.
- Is it measurable? We want to learn what is working and not working over time.
- Does it fit our portfolio of activity? Ideally, the investment should enhance the wider-portfolio of the foundation’s work..
When you consider these questions, it helps to discipline your selection and come closer to the kinds of focus that are necessary to optimise your outcomes.
[Jacquelline Fuller] I lead Google’s philanthropy, and we give fairly generously. We’ve committed a fairly-high percentage of our net profits each year to philanthropy, which works out at north of U$100 million. When you look at the challenges that philanthropy takes on however, like ending poverty or improving education, this can seem like a drop in the ocean.
We think about our core strengths as Google and think of where our dollars could be differential. We ask ourselves where we could achieve the most leverage by combining our grant dollars with the rest of the assets we have available as Google.
For example, one approach we take is our tendency to fund technology and innovation- that’s an area that Google knows best, and is really aligned with our core strengths.
[Darren Walker] All our lines of work come back to our primary focus of disrupting inequality in all of its forms. And when we researched inequality across the world, we found five drivers—including persistent prejudice, unequal access to government, and entrenched cultural narratives.
When we started refining these lines of work, we chose areas that would directly impact one or more of these drivers. So, for example, when we work with artists through a program like Art of Change, or with independent journalists and filmmakers through JustFilms, our goal is expanding some of those cultural narratives in a way that exposes prejudice and challenges stereotypes.
But regardless of the area we’re working in, we create impact by funding what I call our three I’s—individuals, their ideas, and the institutions they build.
Q: What attracted you to prize-philanthropy?
[Anousheh Ansari] Prize philanthropy has a high-multiplier. It’s not just a project- but a way of inspiring people with common goals to go after something and make it happen… making a reality of something that could otherwise have just been a dream. That’s why I like the prize model… it allows you define a specific target, and that brings focus and brings people out of the woodwork. It also helps collaboration. One of the things that impressed me during the Ansari X Prize was that we saw different competing teams helping each other! They saw the end goal of going to space and realised that regardless of who succeeded, everyone’s dream would come true.
Q: What attracted you to ‘space‘ for your X Prize?
[Anousheh Ansari] It started from my own personal wish- as a young girl- to be an astronaut. I wanted to solve the mysteries of the universe by gaining knowledge about space. I continue to believe that the future survival of humanity depends on how-well we become a space-faring species, and how we can learn to live and take advantage of resources in space. That belief, my own personal interest- and a very passionate pitch by Peter Diamandis(founder of the X Prize foundation) all came together at the perfect moment in time and we became partners with him in his endeavour.
X Prize as a foundation has now expanded into many different fields and areas. We continue to bring value to our society through inspiring innovation in critical areas that benefit people around the world. We have a very global board and look at problems worldwide. We also have an amazing group of people who genuinely feel anything is possible and go after crazy ideas. That kind of attitude is often missing in the corporate world where they have shareholder responsibilities, regulators and so on. You also find sometimes people are scared to do audacious things because others may think they’re crazy! X Prize is a fertile ground for people who want to explore audacious ideas together, innovate, inspire young people and more.
Looking back at the Ansari X Prize, when we first started- everything was unknown. Most people didn’t even want to touch it. I remember how difficult it was for Peter to raise funds. He always appreciates us stepping us to be his partner- with the other founding members. It was a proof of concept, and a very successful one. We have been able to expand on this in other areas.
Q: Has your own visit to space influenced your philanthropy and attitude?
[Anousheh Ansari] On a personal level, having that experience [going to space] really changes you at your core. It really gives you a new way of looking at your life, your relationship with the environment and even with other people. It gives you a global perspective, you cannot look at earth and your own city, town and country in the same way again. You really do feel like a citizen of the world.
I think the first group of people we should send to space are politicians. I watch and listen to what’s happening around the world, and see the laws and policies that are passed…. and sometimes feel like saying, “if you’ve seen what I’ve seen, you would not be sitting there arguing about these things….” If someone has the physical capability to have this experience, they should be able to do it. Over time I hope it becomes as inexpensive as taking a normal plane trip.
Q: How do you approach the big game opportunities in philanthropy?
[Eli Broad] In education, our aim was to improve student achievement and close the gaps that existed because of income and ethnicity. That’s how it all started. We really like to see change and therefore we support change agents… people who sometimes are disruptive.
In the arts- we want to see arts enjoyed by a broader part of our population, it stimulates creativity and society.
In scientific and medical research, whether genomics or stem cell research, we want to see solutions to a lot of the physical problems that mankind has.
Q: Have you taken inspiration from any other foundations or historic philanthropists in your own journey?
[Eli Broad] I like to mention Andrew Carnegie because of what he did, establishing a number of institutions, a library and an education foundation but we like to learn from all of them.
We’re really- probably- more aggressive than any other foundation in America, especially in education reform. The things we’ve done in science and medicine didn’t exist before. We were the first ones to get Harvard and MIT to do something together! That project now has over 1800 people, a US$280 million research budget, and we’re number one in the world now in genomics.
It all gets down to people, you need to find great leaders… people you can identify with, who have a plan, that have the ability to make it happen, and who can present you their plans and ideas. If you like their plan? You give them the resources… We don’t then walk away, we make sure they’re following the plan and that things happen… It’s not simply writing cheques.
Q: What are the key lessons you’ve learned in your journey in philanthropy?
[Eli Broad] Firstly, philanthropy has given us the opportunity to meet great people outside the world of business and so on. Secondly, it has given us many ideas, and it’s been very educational.
There are also big challenges every day. What we’re doing in education reform gets a lot of pushback and criticism from the established old interests, whether that be teachers unions or others. They want to maintain the status-quo and are uncomfortable with change. That is not so in science…
[Sir Ratan Tata] In many ways, we’re only just getting started. Over the years however, we’ve learned a few things.
There are many traditions and practices that have been prevalent in the villages of India which are not apt to change easily. We also find that whilst the government has been creating centres to which they deliver medicine, vitamins, nutritions and so forth for these communities; the reality is that they need to deliver to the home as mothers simply won’t walk to the centres which may be miles away.
We’re learning a lot about delivery and reducing the trust-deficit that can exist between the people of the villages and the people who are there to serve them. This is very important.
[John Paul Dejoria] Philanthropy has not changed me; my mother changed my outlook and world view at 6 years old and for that I’m grateful.
[Craig Newmark] I’ve found that there are a lot of really effective charitable groups who success is limited because they don’t know how to tell a good story. Unfortunately, I’ve found that a lot of bogus charities that succeed by virtue of telling a good story, but accomplishing no more than enough to provide a good cover story.
As a result, my team and I are a lot more careful.
[Michael Holthouse] The biggest problem with trying to change the world? The world doesn’t want to change.
Human nature means that people fear the unknown. Change means a break from our routine, and for creatures of habit, this is a violent act. Change means we stop what we’re doing, it means we have to learn new skills, do things differently, and do so with the risks that brings.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in philanthropy is that you have to help people to find their strength, and find the motivation to change. We have to help people proactively solve their own challenges, with the new tools, methods and infrastructure philanthropy can bring.
As a philanthropist, you also have to educate yourself, in detail about the areas you want to make an impact in. When I first started the Holthouse Foundation for Kids, wanting to make a real difference in the lives of the most at risk kids in our community, I took a learning journey around the country- to over 100 locations. I asked a lot of really hard questions to people in the community about what the true underlying problems were that needed to be addressed.
When people talk about outcomes for kids, they immediately reflect on education. What they mean is academics – reading, writing, science and so on. Academic success however, is a very poor predictor to life success. It is a whole other set of skills that are predominantly taught by family, that determines your overall outcomes. For those children in hard to reach communities, and who have been marginalised- their families are often broken. So who is going to teach them and motivate them? This was the profound question I decided to answer.
If you care about solving generational poverty, you have to realise that parents cannot teach kids skills that they don’t know. Consequently, what do they do? They teach kids what they do know – and in far too many situations, what they’re teaching their kids is exactly what we don’t want them to learn- that’s why we get generational poverty. Many kids we see are as bright and as capable as anybody in the world, but their parents don’t let them see the opportunities in front of them.
It’s no accident that the names on the buildings at all the great universities in the world, are not the ‘A’ students, they’re the ‘C’ students, they’re the ones who went out and built companies, used the knowledge they learned in real and practical ways, and advanced society.
Q: How can the profile of an entrepreneur help or hinder their philanthropy?
[John Paul Dejoria] I don’t ask people for money. When it’s a strong cause I believe in that’s looking for major support, I support it as an individual or through my Foundation. Whether my actions help get others interested, is out of my control, but a wonderful thing if that happens. I find it takes one person to create change and hopefully the rest will follow. People innately like to feel good and the best feeling you can ever get is when you’re helping others.
[Craig Newmark] I really haven’t had much of an “entrepreneurial journey”. Mostly, I treat people like I want to be treated. In my world that means listening to people, acting on that, and repeating that process, only as long as I live.
Q: Is philanthropy a family endeavour?
[Eli Broad] My wife and I are involved, but our children really are not. If you look at today’s foundations… whether it’s Gates, ourselves, or others. The fact that the people that founded them were entrepreneurs means they operate a lot differently to the historic foundations, whether it’s Rockefeller, Ford or others.
Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges faced by our society that philanthropy could impact?
[Anousheh Ansari] The most pressing issues that face us can all benefit from philanthropy.
X Prize not only inspired people to go after the dream of building spacecraft but also it changed a whole paradigm of policies around spaceflight, and changed how policy-makers looked at private space exploration. That accomplishment is perhaps even more valuable than winning the prize itself. We had to educate the FAA (who now have a division dedicated to spaceflight) and even change the way that NASA thought about public-private partnerships.
There are many challenges facing us in terms of energy, water, food, education and more. Every aspect of these problems can seriously benefit from prizes. They are complex problems that don’t have a simple solution. Through publicity and paradigm changes, they can benefit. With prizes, we can make leaps in efficiency not just with technology- but with visibility about the problem, education and so on. We can become the link between innovators and policy makers. This is not a short process, it takes years of continuous involvement…
A lot of problems that have not been solved are problems that somehow get stuck with politicians and policymakers. It’s not that we don’t have the answers, but policy making has created an environment where solutions cannot be implemented.
Q: What are the greatest challenges and opportunities you see facing society over the next decade?
[Craig Newmark] Maybe it’s the challenge of getting good, honest information from which to make good decisions about really big issues like climate change and also economic stability.
Q: What aspect of your legacy are you most proud of?
[John Paul Dejoria] I’m fortunate that I can make a change that in a very positive way affects a better way of life for many humans as well as all living creatures and our planet…while I’m alive and that will live on.
[Craig Newmark] I’m humbled that craigslist helps millions of people put food on the table, and to get that table and the roof to put it under.
Q: What are the greatest challenges to philanthropy, and for philanthropists?
[Darren Walker] One of the biggest challenges, and one of the drivers of inequality, has been a failure to invest in public goods. Throughout history, philanthropy has always complemented the efforts of the public sector. For example, the Ford Foundation funded the research that would lead to Head Start, and also funded the Children’s Television Workshop, which would create Sesame Street.
Increasingly, the public sector is not investing in these kinds of goods, and foundations have been left with the impossible task of filling the gap. Given the comparatively small resources of the philanthropic sector, this causes us to either spread ourselves too thin or to lose vital programming.
Q: What are the key challenges faced by the leader(s) of foundations?
[Dr. Robert Tjian] The number one job I have is to continually refresh our cohort of scientists as well as the panels of reviewers that we rely upon to help us screen scientific talent. We hold regular competitions and put a huge amount of work and effort into whittling down 1500 applicants to, say, 30 in a particular selection cycle, and that’s fairly typical numbers-wise.
We’re in the privileged situation to have a remarkable amount of resources, and I’m also tasked with making sure that- at all times- we’re making the best use of what we have. I’m constantly asking myself, ‘is this the right way for us to be using this money?’
Our bottom-line, therefore, is human talent! It’s training and encouraging the next generation of scientists. We put a huge amount of emphasis into identifying promising early career stage scientists. Many of our Nobel laureates? We picked them out 25 years ago, before they showed signs of doing the game-changing experiments that yielded their prize.
[Baroness Manningham-Buller] For the leadership of any large philanthropy or foundation, without a doubt- making the best decisions on how to spend the money they have to the fullest impact is their greatest challenge.
Q: What is the role of transparency in a foundation’s work?
[Dr. H. Fineberg] People can be very concerned about large amounts of money being applied to anything, whether that’s in the political, public, philanthropic or commercial arena. That’s a natural and well-placed concern.
There is a public responsibility for clarity, openness and directness in explaining the role and approach that any public interest organisation is taking. After all, philanthropies are subject to rules, regulations and requirements that are altogether appropriate.
The obligation is on those in philanthropy to have that degree of openness and willingness to explain, and also to listen to the questions, concerns and recommendations from others.
Q: Do we have enough philanthropy in our world?
[Dr. H. Fineberg] I don’t see an end to the good that philanthropy can do.
One of the trends of the modern world, beginning in the industrial age, and amplified in our electronic and media age, is the accumulation of wealth of previously unimaginable proportions in private hands. It’s no longer the princes, kings and queens on the planet who have these significant pools of wealth, but frequently, individuals and families, who are often self-made.
Individuals of enormous talent and good-fortune can often, in the space of just a few years, accumulate enough wealth to do a great deal for the common good, through the application of philanthropy.
This is not a substitute for public investment, nor is it a perfect system, it depends on the philanthropist’s sense of good, and different philanthropists will choose differently.
If you consider what else may be accomplished in expending that kind of wealth, philanthropycan be seen as a wonderfully effective and useful outlet to re-invest, in a venture capital way, into solutions for society’s most pressing problems.
[Darren Walker] There’s never enough! You have to remember that for all the attention foundations get, and we’re blessed at Ford to get more than our fair share, we are just a drop in the bucket. Just compare the amount foundations spend each year relative to the public sector. My friend Sandy Vargas, the brilliant leader of the Minneapolis Foundation, was previously an executive for Hennepin County in the Twin Cities. Her annual operating budget was $1 billion for one county, in one city, in one state, for one year. That’s more than the Minneapolis Foundation has invested in Minneapolis in its first hundred years! So coming to even a large community foundation was a step down in resources for her.
All this is to say, the problems we face as a global society aren’t getting any smaller, so there’s always room for more organized generosity and more resources dedicated addressing these problems.
Q: What are your views on the future of philanthropy?
[Dr. H. Fineberg] We are seeing younger philanthropists beginning to make the transition from business and other income generating roles, to philanthropic roles. People have very different styles and approaches in this regard, they will make different choices about the vehicles they use, the timing of their investments, and the problems they choose to solve.
The speed at which wealth can be accumulated in our world means we are seeing more and more young philanthropists at scale, and that, in turn, means that there’s likely to be a very-high order of personal engagement in philanthropy by the philanthropist, perhaps at an order greater than the previous generation where philanthropy was, most often, an avocation and sense of completion of one’s life.
Today, we think of education, work, family, life and entertainment not as sequential, but interwoven in the fabric of one’s lifetime. I think philanthropy will increasingly be seen in just that way.
Over time, we will therefore see a growing cadre of extremely experienced philanthropists who have engaged in the field for many decades. We will see a proliferation of experiments in the style and nature of philanthropy, and in the ways that people will want to use their resources. It will take many creative forms and some of these will prove to be extremely valuable.
The future of philanthropy will make the past seem rather plain and simple.
[Darren Walker] I hope the future of philanthropy will be not unlike its past in some respects, that we will continue to see positive change on a global scale. Of course, we understand more now, we have more data and technology, and those will allow us to gain a deeper understanding of how we can create meaningful change.
The field has also grown dramatically, in part because there is so much new wealth around the world—from Silicon Valley to Shanghai, and elsewhere—and I think that growth means we have so many new opportunities for collaboration that would have been unthinkable five or ten years ago.
I also think foundations will need to be more transparent and inclusive to fulfill their true potential, and to avoid being left behind or vulnerable to regulatory scrutiny.
Q: What would be your message to others wishing to engage in philanthropy?
[Jeff Raikes] The most important thing is to commit your resources, whether it’s money or time, to a cause that you’re passionate about, whether that is a local school, supporting an environmental project, or helping poor kids in Africa. One of the most important things about philanthropy is to really understand where you want to invest back into society, and how you want to do that. By finding the things that you’re passionate about, and learning from others’ successes, you’ll experience the greatest satisfaction in helping, and probably achieve your own capacity to support the greatest impact on society.
[Eli Broad] You’ll find it’s very rewarding. You’ll feel very good about making a difference and you’ll get a lot of respect from a lot of people for what you’re doing. It’s hard work, but it’s incredibly enjoyable.
[Sir Ratan Tata] You can’t hand your philanthropy to someone else. You need to have a desire within you to make a difference; to do something, to raise the quality of life, to change the suffering of people and so on. You have to be overseeing what happens, and actively involved in how the money is disbursed. Before all of this however, you have to have goals – that can be measured. There cannot be an endless outflow of funds, your strategy has to be sustainable. Paying out money year on year becomes like charity, not philanthropy.
[Anousheh Ansari] I would like to see more people look at their philanthropy, and their projects, as long-term investments. You get so many people asking for support, and so many projects asking for your help… they all seem important on the surface and with good intentions… but if you look at a long-term view, you can sometimes solve the big problem that will also solve the smaller problems too along the way.
My philosophy is to look at root-cause problems, and to try to solve the root cause issue that would then cascade to solve or help the smaller problems. I would like to see more people look at those issues and spend more time on those instead of sometimes just putting their name on a building, university or hospital.
[John Paul Dejoria] Go for it as I always say, “Success unshared is failure.”
[Craig Newmark] If you have an excess of resources, maybe time, influence, or money, considering sharing that in some effective way. Don’t get taken in by an emotional manipulative story with nothing behind it.
[Michael Holthouse] Our society is built on the foundations laid by people before us, who engaged in philanthropy, and built the infrastructure the universities, the inventions and the culture we grew from.
We all have an obligation to continue that work, to contribute to our world, and make meaningful differences in it for the generation after ours. It’s a sad fact that there are lots of people in the world who choose to take, and far fewer who decide to give, but it’s those who give make all the difference.
If we want to change the world in the long-term, and really make a better future? We have to start with our kids. Young people are the only future we’ve got. You and I? we’ve already figured out who we are, and we’re unlikely to change. Children are this incredible, malleable, potential-filled clay. If we invest in our young people, there’s a good chance they will solve all the problems our generation has created.
[Dr. Robert Tjian] Philanthropy is a wonderful complementary partnership with government and industry. These are the three legs of the stool on which our progress sits, and we can’t function with just two of them. Philanthropy is a key part of the whole enterprise of scientific and technical advancement.
Philanthropy is really wonderful at allowing people to do outside-the-box thinking and experiments, but when those discoveries get established? Government and industry pour resources in and those innovations take off. Philanthropy is like venture capital, it’s high-risk, high-reward and you have to be brave because you’re gonna’ fail a lot!
We need the frontier spirit of philanthropists to make those big-leaps in science and culture that our civilisation needs to move forward.
It’s important to also note that philanthropists come in all shapes and sizes — the amount in the cheque isn’t the issue in philanthropy, it’s how you use it, and the difference you make.
[Dr. H. Fineberg] It may feel good to earn money, but it feels even better to apply it to the social good.
There’s a kind of satisfaction, and sense of fulfilment that comes from philanthropy that is hard to equal with any personal expenditure.
[Jacquelline Fuller] Talk to your top employees, the ones you really don’t want to lose, and the most talented candidates you interview- and ask them what they think is important in a company. I bet you’ll hear that they want to work on solutions, products and initiatives that will have impact and really touch and improve people’s lives. People want to be a part of something bigger, and want to feel their company is taking issues-on in an authentic and philanthropic way. When CEO’s hear this from employees directly, it helps. Many CEO’s might want to do philanthropy from their company, but think perhaps it doesn’t make business sense.
This makes common sense though, just look at our own giving…. It helps the recipient and the giver! Corporate philanthropy is the same way….
[Darren Wallker] There’s never been a better time to engage in philanthropy. The range of options can seem overwhelming, but there’s always a way to get started where you live, in your faith community, in your professional circles, or in your cultural community. We also see such a wide range of interesting and willing partners, that the opportunities for collaboration and possibilities for innovation are endless.
And for people newer to the sector, you have many fellow philanthropists who are more than willing to support you in your journey. Come on in, the water’s fine.
As we identified earlier, wealth can take many forms; intellectual, economic, social and biological. Where we consider wealth (in any of these forms) in isolation; at an individual, organisational or even national level, we see that each act of charity or philanthropy is- in effect- executed at the will of a benefactor. Where we consider this wealth (correctly) in abstract however, we see that it is really an asset owned by the whole of society. Each and every member of this global family contributes to the wealth and well being of the others, and it is with this spirit that we have advanced from being a species like all others, to one like no other.
Some of this has been positive, we have made great advances in science, communication, engineering and medicine. We’ve conquered practically every biological and intellectual limitation we have to be able to view our planet from another celestial body, and even create experiments that could yield the answer to the origins of our very universe.
However, much of this remains less resolved. For example 80% of humanity still lives on less than US$10 a day, 22,000 children die of poverty related causes each and every day and nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
Charity and philanthropy can thus be considered a form of creative destruction. A method by which wealth returns from society to itself, and also a method by which it is transferred between generations; like collecting sand and throwing it back to the sea. As C. S. Lewis once said, “Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours.”
At a philosophical level, one could even consider charity and philanthropy as antidotes to the ‘human condition’.
“Each one of us was harmed by being brought into existence….” wrote David Benatar. “That harm is not negligible, because the quality of even the best lives is very bad- and considerably worse than most people recognise it to be. Although it is obviously too late to prevent our own existence, it is not too late to prevent the existence of future possible people. Creating new people is thus morally problematic.” He justifies his position by stating that, “…Both good and bad things happen only to those who exist. However, there is a crucial asymmetry between the good and the bad things. The absence of bad things, such as pain, is good even if there is nobody to enjoy that good, whereas the absence of good things, such as pleasure, is bad only if there is somebody who is deprived of these good things. The implication of this is that the avoidance of the bad by never existing is a real advantage over existence, whereas the loss of certain goods by not existing is not a real disadvantage over never existing.” (Better Never to Have Been, 2008)
Benatar’s views may seem extreme, but there is some element of truth. The majority of our species exist in conditions that the minority simply cannot comprehend, and the only sure-fire way of eliminating this suffering in entirety is for humanity to simply not exist. This option is abhorrent on practically every level, and we must continue our introspection with that in mind.
If we put-aside the enormous odds pitted against our very existing having occurred in the first place, the odds by which we are in a position to not- in some way- be at need of the generosity of others are also extraordinarily similarly slim. It is in recognising this good fortune that we should be called to action.
By not acting, we are also inadvertently placing a moral-price on the lives of our peers. The philosopher Peter Singer once postulated, “What is a human life worth? …you may not want to price tag on it, but if we really had to, most of us would agree that the value of a human life would be in the millions. Consistent with the foundations of our democracy and our frequently professed belief in the inherent dignity of human beings, we would also agree that all humans are created equal, at least to the extent of denying that differences of sex, ethnicity, nationality and place of residence change the value of human life. With a large proportion of humanity still trapped in conditions of life-threatening poverty, we might ask ourselves how these two beliefs- that a human life, if it can be priced at all, is worth millions, and that the factors I have mentioned do not alter the value of a human life- square with our actions.” (Giving Well – The Ethics of Philanthropy, 2012)
Charity and philanthropy are essential components of a healthy and functioning civilisation. We will never eliminate all the problems we face, but as a society, we have shown that we can go a long way. In under a decade, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have saved the lives of over 6 million people with their healthcare interventions, and countless millions more individuals around the world, each and every year, are fed, sheltered, clothed, supported and empowered by countless other donors and philanthropists.
As an African-American proverb states, “God makes three requests of his children: Do the best you can, where you are, with what you have, now”.