Archived Articles about Giving
Please note that some sites require users to register before reading an article. Due to the short shelf-life of articles, the direct link may not be valid. We also provide the publication's URL to request an archived article, usually for a fee, if you want to read one in its entirety. We strive to provide the latest commentary and, at times, that requires registration. As often as possible, we will try to send you to registration-free sites.
"With a Charity for Soldiers, Youths Make Recycling Pay"
Brittany and Robbie Bergquist, teenage siblings from Massachusetts, started a modest nonprofit a few years ago which has since grown into a major, international operation that is about to partner with AT&T. “Cell Phones for Soldiers” collects people’s old cell phones and hands them over to a recycling plant, using the revenue to purchase international calling cards which are then sent to troops stationed overseas. It’s an unusual extracurricular activity for the typical high-school student, but one demonstrating that anyone can make a difference with a little ingenuity and generosity of spirit.
The New York Times Ariel Sabar, March 29, 2007
"Write a Check? The New Philanthropist Goes Further"
Modern day philanthropists, unlike their predecessors from a generation ago, do not want to wait until death to bequeath their wealth, nor do they want the money they donate to disappear into a nonprofit, never to be seen again. They want to know exactly where their money is going, how it is being used, and what results it is helping to achieve. As this desire has become the norm, a support network has developed to help donors accomplish their philanthropic goals, especially when they are novices to the field. From attending intensive workshops to working with professional advisers, today’s philanthropists are learning how to maximize their charitable efforts.
The New York Times Julie Bick, March 18, 2007
"Congress to create new caucus on philanthropy"
It was recently announced that the United States House of Representatives will form a Congressional Philanthropy Caucus, with hopes that a sister group will be created in the Senate. It could be an important step in an effort by nonprofits and foundations to educate the government about its needs and the potential to work together, while also helping elected officials connect to a portion of their constituency that they perhaps haven’t known how best to assist.
The Washington Examiner Frank Sietzen, March 5, 2007
"High-dollar giving is 'contagious'"
When wealthy Americans like Ted Turner, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett make headlines for giving away millions of dollars to philanthropy, other high rollers want to join their ranks. Whatever their particular reason for giving may be, the bottom line is that the rich want to be known for their generosity, not their stinginess.
USA Today - Martha T. Moore, February 27, 2007
Perhaps Warren Buffett’s historic gift is partially responsible for spurring others, but whatever the reason, the end result is what counts: the number of charitable contributions from wealthy Americans nearly doubled in 2006. The Chronicle of Philanthropy offers a detailed report on who did the giving, where the gifts went, and what trends marked this record-breaking year.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy Maria Di Mento and Nicole Lewis, February 22, 2007
"Leaders needed as nonprofit sector grows"
Executives qualified to run nonprofits are becoming increasingly harder to find at a time when the field is growing and the need for strong leadership is more vital than ever. Graduate programs geared toward training in nonprofit management are starting to pop up, but the growth of the industry may demand more avenues through which experienced people can be found for these roles.
Philanthropy Journal - Mary Teresa Bitti, February 19, 2007
"Our Better Half"
Henry Blodget writes that America needs to view its nonprofit sector in a whole new way, beginning with the attitude that the American Dream no longer comes true when wealth is accumulated, but rather when that wealth is contributed to do good.
Slate Henry Blodget, February 16, 2007
"History lesson for philanthropy"
Philanthropy is far from a new concept, yet it does seem to have taken a particularly strong hold in the Zeitgeist over the last year. The idea of venture philanthropy, however, is a new concept or relatively so when considering the history of charitable giving. Susan Berresford, president of the Ford Foundation, believes that while venture philanthropy has its place, it must not supplant the traditional form of giving that has endured since the days of Carnegie and Rockefeller.
Philanthropy Journal Todd Cohen, February 8, 2007
"Immunisation rates hit record high in poor countries"
The World Health Organization recently reported that the GAVI Alliance has vastly increased the number of vaccines available to children in the world’s poorest countries since the year 2000. Aided by donations from several governments around the globe as well as private organizations, the GAVI Alliance’s efforts have helped immunise children against such diseases as diphtheria, hepatitis B and yellow fever.
GAVI Alliance January 26, 2007
"Other Arrillaga charitable too"
Although Laura Arrillaga is part of a family well-known for its philanthropic work in Silicon Valley, she has distinguished herself through her own efforts in the field. Eight years ago, Arrillaga founded the Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund (SV2), a new way for local philanthropists to become involved in the community and learn how to effectively donate their money. SV2 is modeled on a venture capital system of investment, which has proven to be an ideal approach in this haven of high-tech industry.
The Stanford Daily Laura Rumpf, January 24, 2007
Pierre Omidyar and Jeff Skoll were once on the cutting edge of Silicon Valley industry as the founder and first employee/CEO, respectively, of eBay. For the last several years, however, their primary interest has been in giving back to the community, and although they would probably resist such credit, they have helped redefine the way that philanthropy is viewed and practiced. Douglas McGray writes about the innovative thinking that has led them down the road less-traveled.
Los Angeles Times Douglas McGray January 21, 2007
"The New Wave Of Philanthropy"
Last November, Slate Magazine and The William J. Clinton Foundation hosted the Slate 60 conference in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was a gathering of givers from around the country who came together to share ideas about making the world a better place. While there were many different, and sometimes controversial, ideas about how to best accomplish this, one fact was abundantly clear: the philanthropists in attendance have the wealth, vision, influence and passion to see the mission through.
The NonProfit Times Natalie Ghidotti, January 15, 2007
"83% of Americans Donated to Charity in the Past Year, Poll Finds"
A poll conducted in early December revealed that 83% of American adults donated to charity in 2006, although the total dollar amount was less than the previous year, when Hurricane Katrina motivated many people to give. Similarly, whereas disaster relief was the highest-ranked category of giving in 2005, it fell further down the list in 2006.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy - Suzanne Perry, December 29, 2006
"Class Acts: A new breed of young Bay Area philanthropists redefine the meaning and methods of giving"
The wealth that has been accumulated in the last several years by young, tech-savvy Bay Area businesspeople is being put to good use in the community. More and more successful people in and around Silicon Valley have become actively involved in philanthropy, putting not just their money, but also their time and energy, on the table.
San Francisco Chronicle Carolyne Zinko, January 14, 2007
"Spending on needier areas of state deficient, reports say
Feds, foundations give more money to cities, skimping on 18 inland and northern counties"
A new study by the James Irvine Foundation shows that when it comes to private foundations’ giving in California, major urban hubs like the Bay Area and Los Angeles receive much more attention than struggling regions like the San Joaquin Valley and Inland Empire.
San Francisco Chronicle Ilene Lelchuk, November 16, 2006
"Giving back, big time"
When Warren Buffett announced his historic gift to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation this past summer, he noted that the decision to give away his wealth during his lifetime was inspired in part by Andrew Carnegie. Here, writer David Nasaw draws a more detailed comparison between the two men by taking a closer look at Carnegie’s philosophy on philanthropy.
Los Angeles Times David Nasaw, November 2, 2006
"Women’s philanthropy group goes public with causes"
In the days leading up to the midterm election, a group of women philanthropists who had heretofore kept a fairly low profile became more visible as they attempted to see their political concerns addressed on Election Day. Based in Menlo Park, the Women Donors Network represents a large but often unpublicized sector of the philanthropic community. Historically, it may be men, from John D. Rockefeller to Bill Gates, whose names are most commonly heard when it comes to charitable giving, but women are just as active in this area, if not more so.
The Mercury News Mike Swift, October 29, 2006
"Stock market surge may boost charities"
As the holidays approach, so too does the season of giving. Thanks to the current strong performance of the stock market, this year could be one of the biggest in recent memory when it comes to charitable donations.
USA Today Sandra Block, October 16, 2006
"Valley’s innovation extends to funding philanthropy"
When emerging Silicon Valley companies want to engage in social philanthropy, one increasingly popular way to accomplish this is working with the Entrepreneur’s Foundation (EF). Since 1998, EF has been facilitating philanthropic operations at both public and private organizations, creating more opportunity for Valley companies and workers to engage in the community.
The Mercury News Peter Asmus, October 9, 2006
"A campaign to get Americans to help when there isn’t a disaster"
From “Where’s the beef?” to “Got Milk?,” advertising executives would agree that a sure sign of success is a slogan becoming part of our collective consciousness. The Advertising Council hopes that its new campaign to encourage philanthropy will enjoy such success, aided by the slogan “Don’t almost give. Give.” The goal of the campaign is to stimulate charitable donations at any time, rather than just in the wake of tragedies like 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia.
The New York Times Stuart Elliott, September 25, 2006
"Those who lost loved ones sustain memorial charities"
It’s been five years since the devastating attacks of September 11 and many of those who lost loved ones have found a way to cope by channeling their grief into charitable giving. Foundations, scholarships and other philanthropic initiatives carry on the spirit of those who died that day, and allow the families left behind to do good in the world while honoring the memories of the ones they lost too soon.
The Washington Post Jacqueline L. Salmon, September 11, 2006
"With hire, charity sets course"
With the announcement of Dr. Emmett Carson as the president and CEO of the newly created Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF), the process of defining this organization’s identity begins to take shape. Understanding Dr. Carson’s background and previous experience provide hints of what direction SVCF will take.
The Mercury News Sal Pizarro, August 3, 2006
"An urgent cause for philanthropy"
Ralph Kaplan and Harvey Silverglate write that with the recent boom in philanthropy, attention and funding must be directed toward a broader range of issues, not the least of which is the nuclear threat.
The Boston Globe Ralph Kaplan and Harvey Silverglate, July 23, 2006
"Non-profits team up to give big"
The newly announced merger of Community Foundation Silicon Valley and Peninsula Community Foundation will create one of the largest community foundations in the country. The two organizations have discussed such a merger for years, but the time was finally right to move forward.
The Mercury News John Woolfolk, July 13, 2006
"Philanthropy is invaluable to America; Buffett’s gift is a reminder"
My West Texas columnist Ashley Kilburn writes that philanthropy is a long-standing American tradition, which has been rightfully thrust back into the spotlight since Warren Buffett announced an historic gift to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
My West Texas Ashley Kilburn, July 13, 2006
"The most generous companies"
With all the well-deserved attention they’ve received lately, it may seem like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are the only active philanthropists out there. But in reality, generous giving is happening all around us, all the time. In an article from Forbes, Daniel J.T. Schuker focuses on corporate foundations, highlighting some of the most altruistic.
Forbes Daniel J.T. Schuker, July 11, 2006
"Listening to your inner billionaire"
In the wake of major announcements by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett regarding their philanthropic endeavors, Chicago Tribune cultural critic Julia Keller explores historical reasons for philanthropy in the United States, and people’s belief that the wealthy have an obligation to use some part of their fortune to better the world around them.
Chicago Tribune Julia Keller, June 30, 2006
"Buffett to give his billions to charity - With Gates, he sparks new era of mega-money philanthropy"
In a stunning announcement, Warren Buffett, the world's second-richest person, committed to give away his shares in his company, Berkshire Hathaway, to five foundations over time. This article describes his reasons for choosing the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as the primary recipient and notes that these charitable contributions make Buffett the largest philanthropist ever.
San Francisco Chronicle June 26, 2006
"He’s opening windows to philanthropy Gates' decision might spur donations from tech leaders"
Bill Gates announced that, in 2008, he will step back from overseeing the day-to-day operations of Microsoft in order to focus on the $29 billion foundation that bears his name. In the article, Gates is compared to Andrew Carnegie, a leading philanthropist of a prior generation. Silicon Valley philanthropists, including Steve Kirsch, and the Foundation’s CEO, Kathi Gwynn, hope Gates’ concentration on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will inspire other wealthy individuals to make a difference.
San Francisco Chronicle Jessica Guynn, June 18, 2006
"Foundations taking lead in social change"
While hot-button issues become mired in a contentious political system, making it seemingly impossible for government to make any progress on social change, foundations are taking the lead toward solving society’s ills. Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of the Council on Foundations, expects that within 50 years, foundations’ grants will exceed $300 billion annually. But grantmaking is only one piece of the pie.
Casper Star Tribune.net Tom Morton, June 18, 2006
"US companies more charitable in 2005 survey"
According to a survey by The Committee to Encourage Corporate Philanthropy, US companies donated 14% more to charities in 2005 than the previous year. Companies are also encouraging their employees to be more involved in volunteering.
The Boston Globe June 6, 2006
"Gates foundation gives $750,000 for IU philanthropy study"
A landmark study of charitable giving conducted by Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy will be funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The study will be the largest and most detailed survey of charitable giving ever undertaken.
The News Sentinel May 19, 2006
"Microfinance: Services the Poor Can Bank On"
With the help of philanthropists, banks, and others, these institutions help local economies by providing small loans and financial services. “Some of the most powerful social changes brought about by microfinance occur when a family is able to earn that little bit extra, enabling them to keep their kids healthy and in school, thus open the doors of economic opportunity to the next generation,” says Caitlin Baron, director of the microfinance initiative for the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.
Businessweek Chris Farrell, May 2, 2006
"U.S. aid eclipsed by private donors"
U.S. foreign aid from private sources in 2004 was three times greater than the foreign aid the U.S. government provided that year, according to a study by the Hudson Institute. The study, titled Index of Global Philanthropy, was presented yesterday at a United Nations conference. This is considered the first comprehensive report to detail the sources and magnitude of American private giving abroad.
The Washington Times Joyce Howard Price, April 20, 2006
"Foundations to provide $14M in interim funding for stem cell institute"
A group of foundations and other organizations has committed $14 million to set in motion California’s funding of stem cell research, an effort that so far has been stymied by litigation. The six organizations agreed to purchase bond anticipation notes to fund scientific and research grants administered by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine as a bridge to carry the Institute until it can issue general obligation bonds through the state.
San Francisco Business Times Daniel S. Levine, April 4, 2006
"Sale of Knight Ridder won't affect the Knight Foundation"
Soon after the $4.5 billion acquisition of Knight-Ridder was announced, the Knight Foundation made it clear that it will still seek to improve life in the 26 communities around the country where the Knight brothers had owned papers.
Chicago Tribune Charles Storch, March 23, 2006
"Barriers to policy engagement, Part 2"
When nonprofit staff members are stretched beyond capacity, it can be difficult to free time for public-policy work and advocacy. But that work is important, experts say, and a little training and strategic use of boards and coalitions can broaden a group's policy and advocacy impact, even if the nonprofit lacks a staff member dedicated to policy.
Philanthropy Journal Ret Boney, March 13, 2006
"Nonprofits and policy, Part 2"
Foundations can influence policy without hurting status, experts say. "In the funding community, if you want systemic change, the way to get it is through advocacy." For further information on nonprofits and policy, see Part 1 and Part 3 of this series.
Philanthropy Journal Ret Boney, 2006
"Good-to-great nonprofit leadership"
Nonprofits operate differently from businesses and so must be led differently. While businesses have more "executive" leadership, with decision making power held by one or a few individuals, the social sector has "legislative" leadership.
Philanthropy Journal March 8, 2006
"Policy funding needed"
Public policy matters and philanthropy must work harder to shape it. Charities can shy from playing a policy role, may lack the resources or skills to play it, or may not even know they can. Yet policy work is critical: Fixing social problems depends on fixing the policies underlying them.
Philanthropy Journal Todd Cohen, March 1, 2006
"Nonprofit sector growing"
Increase reported in number of nonprofits, and their assets and impact. The U.S. is home to 837,027 charitable nonprofits, up 68% since 1993, and the sector’s asset base is larger than the economies of all but five countries, says a new study by the National Council of Nonprofit Associations. The combined assets of those that report to the IRS totaled $1.76 trillion in 2003.
Philanthropy Journal March 1, 2006
"Young Hollywood and Philanthropy"
Young celebrities are increasingly throwing their weight behind smaller nonprofits in an effort to involve themselves in something they feel is more deep and meaningful, rather than “a one-day, put-on-a-T-shirt, get-your-picture-taken kind of program."
The Hollywood Reporter Tatiana Siegel, February 8, 2006
Today's technology billionaires are investing their time and intellect in charitable causes. As little as five years ago, during the peak of the internet boom, newly minted tech millionaires were criticized as stingy. Now the enormous wealth that has been created by Silicon Valley and the information age appears to be breeding a new wave of philanthropists, who tend to have made their money far more quickly and are giving large sums away at a younger age.
Guardian Unlimited David Teather, February 6, 2006
"The Other 95 percent: How a community foundation uses proxy voting to advance its mission"
The Boston Foundation is sending some very pointed messages to the public companies in which it owns stock. It decided to take socially responsible investing one step further in 2002 by promoting its values through proxy voting that is, voting on company proposals, such as slates of board members, as well as on shareholder resolutions regarding social responsibility.
The Stanford Social Innovation Review Alessandra Bianchi, January 17, 2006
"United Way's New Way"
The century-old United Way became the largest collective recipient of charitable largess in the U.S., giving out grants to 43,000 different charities. Whether the recipient charity showed results was almost mostly an afterthought. Now, pressured by scandal and competition, United Way is in the midst of a dramatic shift in the ways it both raises and doles out money.
Forbes William Barret, January 16, 2006
"Multiplying their gifts"
Giving circles help small philanthropists have a big impact. U.S. giving circles have combined to donate at least $44 million during the past five years.
Denver Post Will Shanley, January 15, 2006
"The Good Samaritans"
In recognition of their efforts to tackle worldwide problems, Bill and Melinda Gates, along with Bono, were named TIME’s Persons of the Year.
TIME Magazine Nancy Gibbs, December 18, 2005
"Hearts as wide as the world: teaching philanthropy"
Realizing how blessed they are, teens are learning about philanthropy through the Peninsula Jewish Community Teen Foundation and are reaching out to help the less fortunate. Last year, they distributed more than $11,000 to nonprofit organizations around the world.
The San Francisco Chronicle Christopher Heredia, December 16, 2005
"Giving, with impact"
In this op-ed, James Ferris, director of the Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy at the University of Southern California, recommends guidelines on charitable donations during this time of year.
San Francisco Chronicle Editorial, December 7, 2005
"Foundation urges civic involvement"
The goal of the Entrepreneurs Foundation is to encourage companies to develop philanthropic programs as a part of their corporate culture.
San Jose Mercury News Matthai Chakko Kuruvila, November 16, 2005
"Giving Funds Provide Flexibility"
Two options for giving include community foundations and giving circles to help philanthropists with their charitable activities.
Washington Post Andrea Caumont, November 6, 2005
"Top Charities See Rise in Donations"
The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently released the Philanthropy 400 list, showing that charitable giving increased in 2004 over the previous year. Among the top fundraising groups were the United Way of America, the Salvation Army, the AmeriCares Foundation, and the YMCA.
The New York Times The Associated Press, October 23, 2005
"Our local disaster plans must account for the less fortunate"
Mark Walker, President of United Way Silicon Valley, urges people to review their level of giving and the Silicon Valley’s preparedness in light of recent natural disasters. He advises the community to make strategic investments now so that the poorest members of the community can reach economic self-sufficiency, thus strengthening the community’s overall ability to withstand any potential disasters.
Mercury News Mark Walker, October 5, 2005
"Wheels of Fortune"
With creativity and ingenuity, Donald Schoendorfer makes wheelchairs out of lawn chairs, steel tubing, and mountain bike tires and distributes them in developing countries through the Free Wheelchair Mission, a charity he founded. The wheelchair costs just $41.17 including shipping costs and repair tools, compared to a hospital chair which typically runs $150 or more.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy Elizabeth Schwinn, September 29, 2005
"Web lets donors find specific needs and fill them"
Contributing to particular causes is becoming easier as websites allow donors to find projects that reach a specific target audience.
USA Today Susan Page, September 11, 2005
"The Future of Philanthropy"
The Kellogg foundation and The David and Lucile Packard Foundation jointly funded a project at the Monitor Group to examine the field of philanthropy. As a result of the research, The Future of Philanthropy website www.futureofphilanthropy.org was created to help those in the field understand how philanthropy is changing.
Foundation News and Commentary July/August 2005
"Hewlett, Packard foundations honored"
Two of the six Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy recipients for this year are based in Silicon Valley. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation are being recognized for “a long-term dedication to spending money for the benefit of the public.”
Mercury News Margaret Steen, August 12, 2005
"Applied Materials executive driving force behind donations to K-12 education"
Michael O’Farrell, Applied Materials’ Vice President of global affairs, created a philanthropic strategy to address the K-12 educational challenges facing San Jose’s youth.
Mercury News Dana Hull, July 30, 2005
"The State of E-Philanthropy"
Nonprofits are seeing a substantial increase in the amount of online giving, although many are still not effectively utilizing the medium to achieve fundraising goals.
PNN Online Vinay Bhagat, July 27, 2005
"Citigroup: Charitable giving starts with bank's president"
Citibank West president Michael Weitzman sets a philanthropic example and shows the value of leadership in terms of ensuring a company's commitment to charity and community service.
San Francisco Business Times Kristen Bole, July 22, 2005
"Woman keeps up aid to Israel cent by cent"
Aiming to fulfill her philanthropic aspirations of helping terrorism victims in Israel, Emily Dubois collected enough change to surpass her goal of raising $15,000.
Mercury News Anna Tong, July 17, 2005
"Americans Gave Nearly $250 Billion In 2004"
A report by the Giving USA Foundation indicates that philanthropic giving has increased by 5 percent since 2003.
Nonprofit Times Matthew Sinclair, July 1, 2005
"Non-profits reaching out"
Community Foundation Silicon Valley and CompassPoint Nonprofit Services released a report showing that nonprofits are working to diversify staff, boards, and services in order to reflect ethnic population growth.
Mercury News Margaret Steen, July 7, 2005
"Olympic athlete serves up donation to aid young people"
Gold medallist Kerri Walsh launched her Chase the Stars Foundation with a donation to the Boys and Girls Club in East San Jose. Through her donor-advised fund at Community Foundation Silicon Valley, Walsh is making her philanthropic dreams come true.
Mercury News Editorial, June 7, 2005
"Venture Philanthropy Revisited"
This commentary examines the impact venture philanthropy has had on traditional giving and recommends that private philanthropists be more aware and understanding of the problems and challenges that charities face.
OnPhilanthropy.com Susan Raymond, April 29, 2005
"What Makes a Nonprofit Venture Succeed -- or Fail?"
Seedco, a national community development agency, released two reports about social enterprise in order to provide technical and financial advice to help nonprofits sustain themselves.
Philanthropy News Network Online March 28, 2005
"Charities see fewer gifts after tsunami"
As a result of the recent influx of donations to tsunami relief efforts, some charities are experiencing a slowdown in fundraising.
Mercury News Margaret Steen, March 11, 2005
"Peter Lynch's guide to philanthropy"
By looking at philanthropy "as a form of investment", Peter Lynch targets his giving to fund ideas that might spread to other neighborhoods or even other cities. In addition, Lynch supports innovative charities with strong leadership.
Boston Globe Michael Paulson, February 27, 2005
"Leaving a proper financial legacy"
Setting up an endowment fund through a community foundation is a cost-effective and easier alternative to creating a private foundation. In addition to having accounting and legal expertise, community foundations can connect donors to local organizations and projects addressing specific needs areas.
Toronto Star Ellen Roseman, February 13, 2005
"Deep tradition of giving among valley's Latinos"
The Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley and Community Foundation Silicon Valley released a report about the giving habits of the Latino community in the local area.
San Jose Mercury News Margaret Steen, February 16, 2005
"IRS Clarifies Rules for Foundation Funding for Lobbying"
Charity Lobbying in the Public Interest, a nonprofit in the Washington DC area, requested guidance from the IRS about foundation support of nonprofits engaged in lobbying. The response specifies the conditions under which such activities are deemed appropriate.
OMB Watch February 7, 2005
"An African-American Family's Experience"
Throughout their lives, sisters Jean and Betty Fairfax, guided by their strong values, devoted extraordinary time, energy and resources to make an impact in social justice causes in their communities.
National Center for Family Philanthropy Lester A. Picker, February 2005
"Paul Allen's ventures often start with the question, 'What do I love?"
Microsoft's co-founder Paul Allen describes the driving forces behind his nonprofit and for profit ventures.
San Francisco Chronicle Allison Linn, January 15, 2005
"Not Sold in Stores: Ways to Save Money, Protect the Planet, and Spread Cheer."
The Center for a New American Dream's mission is to help Americans consume responsibly to protect the environment, enhance the quality of life, and promote social justice. The New American Dream's website promotes alternative and responsible ways to celebrate the holiday season.
"The Top Givers"
Businessweek highlights a few of the philanthropists from its annual top 50 list who made "supersized" gifts this year.
Businessweek Online Michelle Conlin, Lauren Gard, and Jesse Hempel, November 29, 2004
"Big but Not Easy: As Donors Set Terms, Some Charities Resist"
With the increase in the number of philanthropists over the last decade, some donors are coming to the table with specific ideas on the ways their funding is used.
New York Times Stephanie Strom, November 15, 2004
"A View Inside the Gates"
This article provides a rare look at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's founders and discusses the hopes and plans of this philanthropic giant.
Chronicle of Philanthropy Ian Wilhelm, November 11, 2004
"Achieving Impact Without Giving Cash"
Many foundations have less funding to distribute even as the nonprofit sector's needs continue and grow. There are methods other than funding alone, however, that assist nonprofit organizations including sharing access to information, networking, and advocacy.
Foundation News and Commentary Lee Draper, September/October 2004
"A New Strategy For Giving Away Your Money"
This article details a new way for wealthy donors to give to charity, the Donor Managed Investment Account. It was approved in a private-letter ruling by the Internal Revenue Service, a step that usually indicates the agency's overall thinking. The strategy allows donors to give money to a charity but still manage the assets for as long as 10 years after making the gift.
Wall Street Journal Rachel Emma Silverman, October 6, 2004
"Bill Gates talks money -- giving it away, that is"
Keynote speaker Bill Gates discussed his development as a philanthropist at Community Foundation Silicon Valley's 50th anniversary luncheon.
San Jose Mercury News John Boudreau, October 2, 2004
"Working for change: Foundations struggle with role in shaping public policy"
More foundations need to be aware of the relationship between philanthropy and public policy as a method for bringing about effective systemic changes. This article describes some of the many activities in which a foundation can engage to impact public policy.
Philanthropy Journal Ret Boney, September 13, 2004
"Costs are usually lower, allowing savings to go into social services"
In a strategic move to survive difficult times, local nonprofits are merging to form larger organizations that may result in added benefits such as wider expertise and more stability.
San Jose Mercury News Editorial, September 8, 2004
"Doing well and doing good"
Recent data about the growth of philanthropy indicates more people are giving generously of their time and money, not only in the U.S. but overseas as well.
The Economist July 29, 2004
"Schools hope to instill philanthropy"
Learning to Give, a Michigan-based organization, has created a curriculum for K-12 students to instill philanthropic values and help students understand the nonprofit sector.
mlive.com Judy Putnam, July 12, 2004
"New Funds Are Making It Easier to Donate Abroad
Charities Set Up Vehicles To Vet Causes For Terrorist Ties While Preserving Tax Break"
With the recent rise in international giving, charities are taking measures to ensure donations overseas are not supporting terrorist causes.
Wall Street Journal July 6, 2004
"'Charity Checks' Make a Gift of Giving to Others"
A California couple created a new type of gift certificate that allows recipients to make anonymous donations to their favorite charities.
LA Times Stephanie Chavez, July 4, 2004
"The Power 100"
San Jose Magazine released its annual list of movers and shakers in Silicon Valley. Among those highlighted for their philanthropy are Leonard and Shirley Ely, Lisa Sobrato Sonsini, Susan Packard Orr, and Steve and Michele Kirsch.
San Jose Magazine Jenny Desai and Mandy Major, July 2004
"Town's young people set trend in philanthropy"
In an effort to teach the younger generation lessons about philanthropy, private schools in Connecticut are creating student-run foundations. In San Jose, California, Community Foundation Silicon Valley, working together with community-based organizations, strives toward that same goal with its Youth in Philanthropy program.
Greenwich Time Vesna Jaksic, June 13, 2004
"Charities' Tax Breaks Scrutinized
Widespread Abuses Prompt Congress to Rethink Laws"
Through the implementation of changes such as revising reporting requirements and placing restrictions on donor advised funds, Congress is considering how to curb the occurrence of fraudulent activities committed by nonprofits.
Washington Post Albert Crenshaw, June 21, 2004
"A new mission:
A Successful Peninsula Developer Shifts Her Energy Toward Philanthropy"
Local developer Susanna Pau finds "a more important mission in life rather than making money". Pau applies the lessons learned in the business world toward projects in the charitable field.
Mercury News Katherine Corcoran, June 7, 2004
"'Google Grants' Program Brings Questions From Those Left Out"
Nonprofits await the latest word on Google's grants advertising program that donates ad space to various organizations and charities. These organizations benefit from the increased exposure, but some groups will not be applying to the program as Google has removed their own paid ads in the past.
Wall Street Journal Online June 3, 2004
"Foundations unveil unique giving tactics"
At a recent Foundation Incubator forum, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Omidyar Foundation, and the Skoll Foundation presented their novel strategies toward social change.
The Mercury News John Boudreau, May 22, 2004
"A Conversation with Chet Tchozewski"
Chet Tchozewski, the 2004 Robert W. Scrivner Award winner for Creative Grantmaking, talks about his journey into activism and how he eventually founded and leads the Global Greengrants Fund. The Global Greengrants Fund provides small grants to international grassroots groups working on issues such as environmental justice and sustainability.
Foundation News & Commentary Paula J. Kelly, May/June 2004
"You Needn't Be a Rockefeller to Donate"
This Wall Street Journal article suggests donating through community foundations for hassle-free giving. Besides accepting assets such as real estate, a community foundation takes the legwork out of researching organizations, allows you to pool money with friends or family, and gives you the flexibility to control which causes to support.
Wall Street Journal -- Kelly K. Spors, May 9. 2004
"New Pew Trusts Merging Works Into One Body"
The Pew Charitable Trusts are taking the next step in their reorganization as a public charity by centralizing all public policy research in one group.
New York Times Stephanie Strom, April 27, 2004
"Founder of eBay Announces New Approach to His Giving"
eBay founder Pierre Omidyar recently announced his decision to strategically re-position his foundation as part of a network that will include organizations engaged in public policy advocacy and commercial entities focused on social change. The perception that Mr. Omidyar is moving away from pure philanthropy to a business model of social enterprise is causing concern among some charities.
Chronicle of Philanthropy Brad Wolverton, April 15, 2004
"Hey, Give a Little!
. . . or a lot, if you like. Either way, charitable donations are still a smart idea."
This Entrepreneur magazine article discusses a variety of ways to give to charity and maximize potential tax benefits despite recent tax law changes.
Entrepreneur Magazine Joan Szabo, April 2004
"Learning the Gift of Giving"
This inspirational Washington Post article describes the capacity of children to give, and not just receive, on their birthdays. Using several examples, the articles details ways in which an invitation can urge checks to, or support of, a favorite charity "in lieu of a gift".
Washington Post Mary Grace Gallagher, March 18, 2004
"Big Giving Makes a Comeback"
This annual survey found that 2003 giving by the largest donors increased from the previous year. Despite this growth, many organizations struggle to increase donations.
Chronicle of Philanthropy -- Nicole Lewis and Matt Murray, February 19, 2004
Salesforce.com CEO and Chairman Marc Benioff advocates a new model of integrated corporate philanthropy. This book includes a discussion of Steve Kirsch's own philanthropic practices with his software company, Propel.
"Pearson Foundation to Close, Give Away $30 Million"
The trustees of the E.M. Pearson Foundation in Minneapolis/St. Paul decided to close the foundation this spring, because "one generation is enough for a family foundation," according to trustee Donald Steinkraus. The trustees will give all of the foundation's assets--expected to total more than $30 million--to 68 local nonprofit organizations and eight other groups.
Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune Robert Franklin, January 15, 2004
"Holiday giving but still wanting more"
This Christian Science Monitor op-ed reflects on the pressure of giving, the desire to help, and the guilt of wanting during the holiday season.
Christian Science Monitor -- Diane Cameron, December 16, 2003
"Doing your best with charitable donations"
Hoping to give responsibly this year? Writer Kathy Kristof offers practical advice on making sound contributions to needy charities.
Philadelphia Inquirer -- Kathy Kristof, December 16, 2003
"New Research Uncovers Potential Cure For Type 1 Diabetes:
Islet Regeneration May Now Be Possible"
Last month, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital announced that a cure for type 1 diabetes may be found by 2010. This study, largely supported by the Iacocca Foundation, is just one example of the grants the foundation makes towards innovative research.
Iacocca Foundation Press Release November 13, 2003
"Howard Hughes: Patron Of Science?"
Reporter Leslie Stahl profiles the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and describes the unique history that led to the creation of the second-largest philanthropic organization in the country.
CBS News November 23, 2003
"The Pew Charitable Trusts Announces New Status as Independent Non-Profit"
The Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the nation's richest private foundations, has received regulatory and judicial approval to become a public charity on January 1, 2004. The change, which is nearly unheard of in philanthropy, will allow the Trust to raise money, lobby and engage in other activities that are either prohibited or sharply limited for private foundations.
Pew Charitable Trusts Deborah Hayes, November 6, 2003
"BEA Systems Wisely Invests in Children"
On Thursday, October 23, Community Foundation Silicon Valley presented BEA Systems founder and CEO, Alfred Chuang, with the Corporate Community Involvement Award. BEA Systems' philanthropy focuses on the educational development of young children.
San Jose Mercury News Editorial, October 24, 2003
"Former eBay president boosts charity fund to $300 million"
The Skoll Foundation forges ahead, advancing its message of social change and getting additional support from its founder, Jeff Skoll.
San Jose Mercury News John Boudreau, October 14, 2003
"Shepherding a New Philanthropic Bull Market"
Timothy Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation, encourages progressive philanthropists to aggressively influence change and make their voices heard.
Foundation News and Commentary Timothy Wirth, September/October 2003
The following is excerpted from "May a Private Foundation Make an International Grant That Includes Political Advocacy?" from "Legal Dimensions of International Grantmaking," First Quarter 2003, a supplement to International Dateline, reprinted with permission of the Council on Foundations. Gregory E. Siegler and Gregory L. Colvin authored the article.
Like all other charities, private foundations are governed by Internal Revenue (IRS) Code Section 501(c)(3), which restricts only two categories of advocacy activities. First, Section 501(c)(3) bars charities from supporting or opposing candidates for public office (sometimes referred to as candidate electioneering). Second, it limits charities' ability to lobby on specific legislation; for private foundations, Section 4945 extends this to prohibit such legislative lobbying altogether. But Section 501(c)(3) places no restrictions on any advocacy activity that meets neither the definition of candidate electioneering nor that of legislative lobbyingso long as the activity furthers the foundation's tax-exempt purposes, of course.
This means that a private foundation may be actively involved in shaping public policy, both in its own programs and through financial support to others. For instance, a private foundation may conduct or fund any of the following activities without violating Section 4945's ban on lobbying:
- Attempting to influence an administrative agency about its regulations, rulings and other matters that will not come before a legislative body for a vote;
- Communicating with the President, a governor, a mayor or other official or employee of the executive branch of government on decisions that are executive and not legislative;
- Attempting to influence legislators on non-legislative matters, such as conducting investigative hearings or intervening with a government agency, if the issue is one of public policy rather than specific legislation and the principal purpose of the foundation's communications is not legislative;
- Filing, funding or participating in lawsuits to affect public policy through securing a favorable judicial decision; and
- Communicating with the public (that is, to anyone outside of government) about specific legislative proposals as long as there either is no "call to action" that directly or indirectly encourages the recipient to contact a legislator regarding the legislation or the communication reflects no view on the legislation.
Even when an activity otherwise would be lobbying, one of several exceptions may be available, namely:2
- Conducting "nonpartisan analysis, study or research, "consisting of a sufficiently full and fair exposition of the pertinent facts to enable the study's audience to form an independent opinion or conclusion and making the results available to the public;
- Providing technical advice or assistance to a government body or committee in response to a written request or invitation from that body, so long as the request is made in the name of the committee or agency rather than by an individual member of it;
- Appearing before or communicating to any legislative body on a possible decision of the body that might affect the private foundation's own existence, its powers and duties, tax-exempt status or the deductibility of contributions to it (known as the self-defense exception);
- Conducting an "examination"[or] discussion of broad social, economic, and similar problems," so long as the discussion does not address itself to the merits of a specific legislative proposal; and
- Communicating with government officials about a program that is or may be jointly funded by the foundation and the government.3
Private foundations may also make grants to public charities that lobby without running the risk that the grantee's lobbying activities will be attributed to the private foundation, if the grant agreement between the private foundation and the public charity grantee contains appropriate protective language. A private foundation generally does not need to require its grantees to refrain from lobbying. Rather, the grant agreement should state either that the grant is expressly not earmarked to be used for lobbying or, if a specific project is involved, that the private foundation has relied on the project budget provided by the grantee and the budget shows that the expected non-lobbying expenditures are higher than the foundation's proposed grant (sometimes referred to as a "McIntosh" grant).4
2 Treas. Reg. Sec. 4945-2(d).
3 Treas. Reg. Sec. 53.4945-2(a)(3).
4 Treas. Reg. Sec. 53.4945-2(a)(6), based upon an earlier IRS private letter ruling issued to the McIntosh Foundation, PLR 7810041.
About The Authors
Gregory E. Siegler is an associate and Gregory L. Colvin is a principal in the San Francisco law firm of Silk, Adler & Colvin, which specializes in the law of nonprofit organizations.
NOTE: The Kirsch Foundation is not a private foundation. We are a registered 501(c)(3) charity and have elected the safe harbor provision for lobbying activities since we engage both in grantmaking and advocacy.
"Saving and Giving"
This Washington Post author reflects upon her own philanthropic goals and advocates for charitable giving even for people of modest means.
Washington Post Michelle Singletary, August 24, 2003
"A Revolution Was Ventured, But What Did It Gain?"
Venture philanthropy may have reached its heights during the technology boom, but it has managed to survive the recession to continue its influence in the philanthropic realm.
Chronicle of Philanthropy Ben Gose, August 21, 2003
Two San Francisco Chronicle articles create a point/counterpoint on the issue of the potential increase in foundation payout that is under Congressional consideration. The articles provide useful information about the pros and cons of the proposed legislation.
"CHARITABLE GIVING ACT Don't hamstring foundation with regulations"
San Francisco Chronicle Kirke Wilson, June 15, 2003
"CHARITABLE GIVING ACT Pump billions into charities while preserving foundation"
San Francisco Chronicle Rick Cohen, June 15, 2003
"No More Wiggle Room"
This Chronicle of Philanthropy article provides a broad and detailed overview of what is happening financially in the philanthropic field. It describes the loss of assets, the paring and changing of grantmaking areas, and the need for foundations to remain focused on the purpose of their work.
Chronicle of Philanthropy Brad Wolverton, March 6, 2003
"Even as assets drop, Kirsch Foundation sticks to spending commitment"
Despite the endowment decrease, the Kirsch Foundation plans to maintain a high payout rate. Although many other organizations would rather have the goal of giving in perpetuity, Steve and Michele Kirsch decided they would keep funding their causes.
San Jose Mercury News John Boudreau, December 8, 2002
"25 most generous young Americans"
After surveying hundreds of individuals and nonprofits, Worth Magazine staff selected 25 people who give significantly, not only of their wealth, but also of their time and energy. Steve and Michele Kirsch are highlighted as the fifth most generous in this list.
Worth Magazine December/January 2003
Families who wish to create a legacy of donating may want to consider setting up a family foundation. This Town and Country Magazine article provides advice and resources for beginning this process.
Town and Country Magazine Joanna L. Krotz, December 2002
"The New Face of Philanthropy"
Philanthropists today are redefining their approach to giving. New donors strategically attempt to "put more muscle behind their stated cause" and focus on areas such as finding cures for diseases and improving health care on a global basis.
Business Week Online John Byrne, December 2, 2002
"Speaking softly while carrying strong beliefs"
The Palo Alto community and surrounding areas have benefited over the years from the guidance and generosity of active community member Boyd Smith, immediate Past Board Chairman of Community Foundation Silicon Valley, the foundation of which the Kirsch Foundation is a supporting organization. Palo Alto Weekly Editor Jay Thorwaldson describes the history behind Mr. Smith's lifetime philanthropic contributions.
Palo Alto Weekly Jay Thorwaldson, September 18, 2002
"Some Foundations Are Electing To Spend It All Now, Close Shop"
Staff reporter David Bank features a small group of foundations who are "bucking tradition" and making donations now rather than cutting back in order to preserve their assets.
Wall Street Journal David Bank, September 10, 2002
"Philanthropy postponed by downturn"
Givers who once pledged millions in stock are now being granted deadline extensions on their donations. A tumbling stock market is forcing nonprofits to be more flexible and understanding with donors' payment schedules.
San Jose Mercury News John Boudreau, July 28, 2002
"Matching Givers With Those in Need"
New York teachers receive much needed support for their students through the DonorsChoose website which allows specific projects to be targeted for funding.
New York Times Stephanie Strom, July 2, 2002
"Big Philanthropists Seek Bigger Roles in Shaping Policy"
Steve Kirsch plans to impact public policy in Washington, D.C., by supporting an advocacy group positioned opposite the conservatives. Other big players with similar intentions of affecting policy are George Soros, Bill Gates, and Ted Turner.
Wall Street Journal David Bank, June 19, 2002
"Social Change and How It's Done"
Writer Alison Goldberg describes the principles behind social change philanthropy. Several foundations attempt to focus on the root causes of problems and, as the Peace and Development Fund Executive Director explains, "It is more than teaching people to fish. It's supporting their efforts to get a company to stop polluting the lake they're trying to fish in."
Foundation News and Commentary Alison D. Goldberg, May/June 2002
"Larry Ellison's Final Frontier"
As the largest private funder of aging research, Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison hopes to unlock the key to prolonging one's life span. With support from the Ellison Medical Foundation researchers delve into areas that the federal government may avoid and are breaking ground at a fast pace.
Worth Magazine John Sedgwick, May 2002
"Despite Sour Economy, Foundation Grants Rose in '01"
According to a Foundation Center report, foundations increased their spending by 5.1 percent in 2001, despite the downturn in the stock market. Two contributing factors were the increase in the number of foundations and the fact that many foundations set aside money when the market rose.
New York Times Stephanie Strom, April 4, 2002
"Ritchie's formula gives charity an automatic piece of the pie"
Ritchie Commercial Real Estate in San Jose donated approximately $45,000 to various charities last year, even though it was experiencing hard times. Mark Ritchie, president, feels that the giving not only benefits nonprofits but businesses as well.
San Jose Business Journal Danek S. Kaus, April 5, 2002
"Soros Insists Government Funding Must Raise Philanthropy for Gains"
In this thought-provoking interview in which he describes some of his own extensive international giving, George Soros describes his plan for "foreign aid". The plan proposes that "rich nations would donate their share to a common pool, which would then fund proposals from poor countries, nongovernmental organizations or broader efforts such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria."
Wall Street Journal David Bank, March 14, 2002
"Women's funds: A growing role"
More and more women are forming charitable funds and foundations to meet their growing interest in philanthropy. In cities from Miami to San Francisco, women are pooling their funds to assist local groups.
Nonprofitxpress Todd Cohen, March 8, 2002
"The new philanthropists"
In this column, Paul Schervish discusses his research that, over the next 50 years, Americans will transfer an astonishing amount of wealth, with an estimate of 40.6 trillion dollars, to subsequent generations. He describes the younger wealth-holders as enthusiastically fostering their philanthropic desires and as individuals who want to give their money away wisely and actively.
Boston Globe Paul Schervish, March 2, 2002
"Giving defies valley gloom"
Bay Area giving circles, comprised of entrepreneurs, young venture capitalists, and executives, are growing despite the decrease in personal assets. These social activists are also donating their expertise to support charitable causes.
San Jose Mercury News John Boudreau, February 6, 2002
"Bill's Biggest Bet Yet"
One of the Gates Foundation's challenging goals is to reduce the gap in human health. This is just one example of how the traditional methods of American philanthropy have given way to a new trend. Increasing numbers of young donors are starting private foundations that strategically invest for social change. The article also recognizes Steve Kirsch's work as an engaged philanthropist in "Charities That Hate to Just 'Give'".
Newsweek February 4, 2002
"Community Foundation Silicon Valley Wins National Philanthropy Award"
On Tuesday, April 16, 2002, Community Foundation Silicon Valley (CFSV) will be honored as the National AFP's Outstanding Foundation for 2002 at the International Conference on Fundraising in St. Louis, Missouri. CFSV is the first Community Foundation in the country to receive this award.
Association of Fundraising Professionals, Silicon Valley January 2002 newsletter
"Our 10 most positive stories of 2001"
Favorite good news stories of 2001 include recognition of Steve Kirsch's support of the Town Crier's Holiday Fund.
Los Altos Town Crier Editorial December 26, 2001
"Beyond fundraising: Tech execs entering the race"
Technology executives seem to be starting a trend toward involvement in the political process. Although the government's interest in the technology sector is increasing, candidates such as Steve Westly are set to take on the challenges of the political arena.
Business Journal, Timothy Roberts December 21, 2001
"Philanthropists to Dole Out $2 Million in Grants to Local Nonprofit Groups"
Thirty-eight local agencies that provide assistance to the needy will receive grants from the Urgency Fund to help cover the gap in donations as a result of the economic downturn and the September 11 attacks.
San Jose Mercury News, Connie Skipitares December 17, 2001
"A Gift for Giving"
For the last six months, Worth Magazine has worked to research the 100 best charities to donate to for the most impact. Worth examined financial statements, consulted philanthropy experts, and conducted due diligence. The five focus areas are health, human services, relief and development, environment and education.
Worth Magazine. Reshma Memon Yaqub December 2001 issue
"Leading Philanthropists Get Carnegie Medals"
Seven philanthropists were honored for their different approaches to philanthropy and their desire to make an immediate impact on society. The honorees were Leonore Annenberg, Brooke Astor, Irene Diamond, William H. Gates Sr., David Rockefeller, George Soros and Ted Turner.
New York Times, Tamar Lewin December 11, 2001
"Language Matters: It Is Time to Change Our Name"
Peter Hero, President of Community Foundation Silicon Valley, states his belief that nonprofit organizations should be renamed "public benefit corporations." This new term reflects the positive qualities that characterize successful organizations within the sector. Read the entire article that appeared in the Association of Fundraising Professionals October 2001 newsletter.
"Tech Companies Team Up To Form Charity Site"
The Network for Good, a new online giving website, is the result of a joint effort from AOL Time Warner, Cisco Systems, and Yahoo. However, besides bringing in donations, this site provides information on how to contact officials and news organizations to speak out on various causes.
Chronicle of Philanthropy, Nicole Wallace November 29, 2001
"Quiet giving goes on"
Local foundations such as the Los Altos Education Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation provide much needed support to schools and nonprofits in the Los Altos area.
Los Altos Town Crier, Town Crier Staff Report October 24, 2001
"Co-founder of eBay aids nonprofits"
Skoll Community Fund founder and Chairman Jeff Skoll is leading the efforts to help Bay Area nonprofits with the creation of an emergency pass-through fund to compensate for the shortfall in giving this year. The Steven and Michele Kirsch Foundation as well as the Sobrato Family Foundation have already pledged their support for the initiative.
San Jose Mercury News, John Boudreau October 22, 2001
"Cultivating Philanthropy Overseas"
Nations all over the world are finding that the U.S. model of a community foundation is an effective tool for community problem solving and developing philanthropic awareness.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Stephen G. Greene October 18, 2001
"Local Charities Need Our Help"
The current economic challenge, combined with the widespread response to September 11th relief and recovery efforts, has resulted in reduced philanthropic support on the local level. Peter Hero and Debra Engel, President and Chair of the Board of Directors of Community Foundation Silicon Valley respectively, remind the community to continue its work to strengthen our own neighborhoods and communities.
San Jose Mercury News, Opinion October 17, 2001
"Saving the World"
Steve Kirsch has a keen business sense and a passion for technology, judging from his track record of founding companies. However, his values shape many areas of his life. From his ethicist consultant for business decisions to his support for tracking Near Earth Objects (NEOs), Steve has the greater good in mind.
California CEO, Becky Bergman September 2001
"Passion Not Strategy Drives Successful Giving"
The current formula for today's philanthropy focuses on strategic giving which calls for measurable results and outcomes in order to show effectiveness. In a Chronicle of Philanthropy article, H. Peter Karoff argues that other factors such as creativity, values, instinct and passion, are just some of the missing ingredients in meaningful giving.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy, H. Peter Karoff September 20, 2001
"Charity Used as Political Hammer"
Philanthropists can influence society and affect policy by funding efforts that seek change. In this article, Kathleen Gwynn, President and CEO of the Steven and Michele Kirsch Foundation, among others, discusses this means for public policy changes.
San Jose Mercury News, John Boudreau September 2, 2001
"Laid-off tech workers helping non-profits"
As many high tech companies struggle to survive these rough times, Cisco Systems finds a unique way to make lay-offs easier and beneficial to our community.
CNN.com, September 3, 2001
"The Playboy Philanthropist"
Larry Ellison, Oracle founder and CEO, discusses his philanthropic interest in biotechnology. By investing in a biotech company and through the Ellison Medical Foundation, he hopes to contribute to the fight against infectious diseases in the Third World and to cure diseases that affect the elderly.
Fortune.com, Brent Schlender September 3, 2001
"United Way Is Reporting 3.8% Increase in Donations"
For a fifth consecutive year, United Way has found that nationwide giving has increased faster than inflation, possibly as a result of President Bush's stance that "charities are better suited than government to provide many social services." Many United Way donors, however, are designating gifts to specific charities through United Way, which is decreasing the funds available for United Way to distribute in some communities, such as Silicon Valley.
New York Times, David Cay Johnston - August 8, 2001
"Giving When It Hurts"
Scott Harris' Industry Standard feature describes Steve Kirsch as one of a few high-tech philanthropists aggressively giving despite the economy.
The Industry Standard, Scott Harris August 1, 2001
"The Richest Link"
The Chronicle of Philanthropy recognizes Steve Kirsch's model giving, even in the face of an economic slowdown. Steve boldly challenges others to examine their own areas of concern and encourages them to support worthwhile causes.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Domenica Marchetti June 14, 2001 issue
"Links to live by when giving online"
As online giving becomes more prevalent, articles such as "Links to live by when giving online" provide helpful ways to research charities and online giving entities.
San Francisco Chronicle, John Batteiger, June 10, 2001
"Survey Finds Rapid Rise in Assets and Grants of Donor-Advised Funds"
The number of donor-advised funds is increasing, along with more grant activity, according to an article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Local and national community foundation assets have been able to enjoy a stronger asset base over a short period of time.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Harvy Lipman May 31, 2001 issue
"A Better Rx for Global Health?"
Organizations and philanthropists feel efforts for change should focus on a more global approach to address health and medical issues. Reporter Stephen G. Greene noted that participants and speakers at the recent conference sponsored by the Academy for International Health Philanthropy (AIHP) agreed with this approach. The Kirsch Foundation is a founding member of AIHP and Steve Kirsch was a keynote speaker at the summit.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Stephen G. Greene May 31, 2001 issue
"Biomedical Philanthropy, Silicon Valley Style"
The prominent science journal Nature highlights the role that high-technology entrepreneurs, including Steve Kirsch, now play in funding biomedical research. These philanthropists have cast aside lengthy grant applications and cumbersome peer-review panels. Funding decisions are placed in the hands of individuals, such as the Foundation's own Director of Medical and Scientific Programs, Dr. Sarah Caddick, who is quoted at length in the article. These individuals are told to get to know the scientists working in a field and to judge projects on the basis of promising and innovative ideas.
This new approach has been dubbed 'venture philanthropy', and is the antithesis of the careful but conservative peer review operated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The concept is that, by providing seed money to risky projects, the recipients will eventually amass funding from more traditional sources. The article points out that the new entrepreneurs and their staff are adept at strategic analyses and finding where philanthropy dollars can make a difference. Researchers who have already benefited from Silicon Valley philanthropy say this type of funding can mean liberation from the continual and energy-sapping chase for federal research dollars, in other words "We are buying back the researchers' time".
Nature Magazine, Tricia Gura Vol. 410, March 8, 2001
"Global Giving, The Gates Foundation and others"
Donors who made their fortunes in the technology sector are beginning a trend toward contributing their support for global health initiatives. Organizations such as The Gates Foundation as well as the Kirsch Foundation are changing the face of philanthropy.
BioMedNet, Joel E. Shurkin April 27, 2001, Issue 101
"Peter Hero: A Lesson in Giving"
Peter Hero, Community Foundation Silicon Valley (CFSV) President and CEO, explains how he has made giving to non-profit organizations simpler. He has developed a style of giving that is the same as investing in the stock market. Each donor is assigned a CFSV staff member who works much like a stockbroker. (The Kirsch Foundation is a supporting organization of CFSV.)
The Standard, Ivan Gale February 12, 2001
"Funds Can Make Giving To Charity An Easy Gesture"
Earn while you give. Some brokerage firms can now help you earn a federal tax deduction for a minimum donation of $10,000 to a donor-advised fund. These accounts are similar to mutual funds for charity donations. Once your money is in the charitable gift fund you can decide how much to give to specific charities or you can let the fund earn more income for future giving.
US News and World Report, Joellen Perry February 12, 2001
"The Slate 60 Goes to Business School"
Slate Magazine writer Chris Suellentrop is optimistic about the generous contributions given to non-profit organizations, particularly to business schools, even though the markets were down in 2000. This year's "Slate 60" named Bill and Melinda Gates number one with their $5 billion contribution to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Slate Magazine, Chris Suellentrop January 22, 2001
"Group Creates Grant Pool"
One of Silicon Valley's most recent hot business ventures is not in business to make money. It's in business to give it away. Young and wealthy retirees, who have made it their mission in retirement to give back to their community, established Social Venture Partners Bay. This article explores the passion behind this new philanthropic endeavor.
The San Jose Mercury News, John Boudreau November 28, 2000
"Does Philanthropy Need to Change?"
Entrepreneurs wishing to participate in charitable giving have helped the practice of "venture philanthropy" make a huge splash in recent years. The authors of this Worth.com article discuss the notion of venture philanthropy and question if this giving format is any better than "classic philanthropy."
Worth.com, Jed Emerson and Paul Shoemaker November 27, 2000
"The Man Who Sold Silicon Valley on Giving"
Peter Hero, the President of Community Foundation Silicon Valley (CFSV), is credited with inspiring many of Silicon Valley's wealthy to become charitable. (The Kirsch Foundation is a supporting organization of CFSV.) This Fortune Magazine article highlights Mr. Hero's successful endeavors and features those who have followed his advice to share their wealth with their community.
Fortune Magazine, John Elkind November 27, 2000
"Portrait of the CEO as a Philanthropist"
Today's young entrepreneurs have coined a phrase that reflects their thinking in operating a business "compassionate capitalism." They are concerned about more than their company's bottom line. They promote returns of the emotional and moral kind as well as a return on investment. This article in Fortune Small Business discusses the fresh and innovative business plans of some of the next generation of business owners and how they are promoting giving back to the communities around them.
Fortune Small Business, Heather Chaplin October 29, 2000
"Moneymakers talk about giving it away"
The wealthy work extremely hard to earn their money and many often work even harder when determining how to give it away. These philanthropists not only want to donate to causes that are near and dear to them but also to charities that will make their money go the furthest. This article features the giving thoughts and advice of Steve Kirsch, Susan Dell, one of the founders of the Dell Foundation, and Netscape founder Jim Barksdale.
Austin American-Statesman, Amy Schatz October 13, 2000
"It's Not 'Stingy Valley' Anymore"
Silicon Valley an area with a reputation for making money is earning a new label a region of giving. This article examines how businesses in the Valley are emphasizing philanthropy. Coffers at community foundations and giving funds are bursting at the seams. Large companies are encouraging employees to give back and universities are offering courses in charitable giving.
San Jose Mercury News, John Boudreau September 24, 2000
Venture philanthropy has a high-tech definition the dot-com wealthy are giving to charity in droves but, in doing so, demand success from the recipient organizations. This article explores how Internet millionaires are donating to their favorite causes and with their generous donations expect to see a return on their investment.
USA Weekend, Monika Guttman September 15, 2000
In most areas of the U.S. organizations that depend on donations for survival, such as places of worship and food banks, struggle to raise funds. Not in Silicon Valley. The wealth created by the Internet boom is filling donation coffers. This article highlights giving trends in the Valley and features Steve Kirsch's views on philanthropy.
The San Jose Business Journal, Abigail Sterling August 14, 2000
"A New Way of Giving"
Americans donate more of their time and money than any other nationality. Much of this is driven by the robust economy, fueled by the technology boom. Philanthropists made wealthy by the high tech industry are giving generously and, when doing so, are practicing skills they acquired in business to target organizations worthy of funding. This article includes features on visible donors such as Bill and Melinda Gates, Ted Turner, and Sally and JimBarksdale.
Time Magazine, Karl Taro Greenfeld July 24, 2000
"Where Charity Begins"
Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, among others, are acknowledged for their marvelous deeds in the philanthropic world in this expose on high-tech giving. The write-up discusses visible givers in Silicon Valley and what causes they care about. Steve Kirsch's charitable endeavors are also featured.
Business Week, Joan O'C. Hamilton June 5, 2000
"Tech Gurus Who Also Teach Giving"
Technology leaders have paved the way for philanthropists. This article features those who have been at the head of the pack, including Bill Hewlett, Dave Packard and Steve Kirsch. While donating fortunes to charity, these innovative givers have also taken time to teach other executives about the value of giving.
San Francisco Chronicle, Mark Simon's column June 3, 2000
"Some Cyber-Rich Remember To Give Back"
The increase of tech companies and newly made cyber-rich has changed the pattern of philanthropy in Silicon Valley. In this article, Alex Miller talks with Steve Kirsch of Propel Software Corporation, Jeff Skoll of eBay and Community Foundation Silicon Valley President Peter Hero about "facilitating charitable giving among the busy new money of Silicon Valley."
ZDNet: Inter@ctive Week Online, Alex Miller - May 22, 2000
"The Good Deed Doers"
Written from the viewpoint of Steve Kirsch, this article details what motivated Steve to begin his venture into philanthropy and how other high-profile people have followed his lead. He argues that charities should be treated in the same manner as Internet start-ups. Philanthropists should be stumbling over one another to give to their favorite charities like venture capitalists are jockeying with each other to fund the hottest start-up.
Inc Magazine, from an interview with Thea Singer May 15, 2000
"Charity's Funding Rebounds: Back from brink, United Way raising most money since 1993"
It's been a year since United Way Silicon Valley (then United Way of Santa Clara County) faced a dramatic funding shortfall, which threatened organizations that rely on it for support. The past year has proved there is light at the end of the tunnel. The United Way Silicon Valley expects to have its most successful fundraising year since 1993. This article discusses what challenges United Way has experienced this past year and features remarks from Steve Kirsch. Steve and Michele Kirsches $1 million donation to the United Way last year helped kick-off its fundraising campaign, which lead it on the road to recovery.
The San Jose Mercury News, Connie Skipitares April 30, 2000
"High-Tech's Nouveau Riche Give Back"
Young Internet millionaires are trading in their laptops and 80-hour workweeks for another path what charities to donate their money to. The article highlights interviews with innovative entrepreneurs who advise the technology rich on how to best give away their fortunes. The piece also features thoughts on giving from Steve Kirsch.
USA Today, Kirsten Haukebo April 27, 2000
"Gazillionaires Give Back"
Instead of buying numerous vacation homes or traveling the globe, Silicon Valley's richest folks are finding more rewarding ways to spend their money. This lively article discusses how the area's wealthy have chosen to invest their money in charity. The piece includes an interview with Steve Kirsch and how he's chosen to devote part of his fortune to causes near and dear to him.
Upside Today, Bronwyn Fryer April 20,2000
"The New (But Not New) Giving"
This piece is Worth Magazine's annual list of the "100 Most Generous Americans." The article discusses the philanthropic beliefs behind those included. While it's apparent that many of those featured on this prestigious list are young, their values on giving reflect those of past generations. Steve and Michele Kirsch are #96 on the list. Due to Worth Magazine's reprint policy, we have included just the summary on the Kirsches.
Worth Magazine, Nelson W. Aldrich Jr. April 2000
#96 Steven and Michele Kirsch $49.9 million
The Kirsches have focused their philanthropic interests on community projects, medical and scientific research, political reform, environmental causes and nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. Steven, 43, is best known as the chairman and founder of Infoseek, which was acquired last year by Disney. He recently started a new company, Propel Software Corporation, which will provide infrastructure for E-commerce.
Reprinted with permission from Worth Magazine
"64 Millionaires a Day: Are Silicon Valleys Wealthy Doing Their Share of Giving?"
Silicon Valley has the highest median income in the nation but donates to charity on par with the rest of the country. This piece examines the climate of charitable giving in Silicon Valley and discusses if the "stingy on giving" reputation the area has earned is a fair assessment.
Santa Clara Magazine -- Spring 2000
"Will New Yorks Newly Rich Dot-Comers Embrace Venture Philanthropy?"
New York, often referred to as "Silicon Alley," is home to a crowd of newly wealthy individuals, thanks to the Internet. This group, as discussed in this article, is being encouraged to follow in the footsteps of Silicon Valley philanthropists and take an active role in charitable giving.
Business Week -- March 2000
"Budding Philanthropists: Mutual Funds help newly rich share wealth with charities."
A good number of average Americans are finding themselves with money due to a soaring economy and sky-high stock prices. These people are now looking for the most effective way to give to charity. This article explores how major financial-services companies are coming to their rescue.
San Francisco Chronicle -- February 29, 2000
"Sudden Wealth: Young Millionaires"
The "dot com" companies are creating multi-millionaires every day. This KRON Channel 4 "Contact 4" special feature discusses the idea of instant wealth and how some of these newly rich are realizing their affluence at younger ages. The segment features an interview with Steve Kirsch.
KRON 4 "Contact 4" news segment, Emerald Yeh February 22, 2000
"Giving, the Silicon Valley Way"
The Internet has made millionaires, and billionaires, overnight in Silicon Valley. When this group of newly wealthy donates to charity, they want to see a return on their investment.
Fortune, Joanne Cole -- January 25, 2000
"The Rich Get Generous"
James Barksdale, former president of Netscape Communications, donated $100 million to the State of Mississippi to improve literacy rates in his home state. Hes one of many in Silicon Valley whove turned to philanthropy after making their fortunes in the Internet boom.
The San Jose Mercury News, Joshua L. Kwan -- January 20, 2000
The 1999 funding shortfall at the United Way Silicon Valley (formerly named the United Way of Santa Clara County) sets the stage for this article on charitable giving by young, Internet executives. Many of the 30-something Web-wealthy have yet to think about philanthropy.
CNN.com -- January 6, 2000
"Turning Baby Internet Moguls into Big Givers"
Highlighting the generous grant-making work of the Community Foundation Silicon Valley, this feature discusses the challenge of getting the young, Internet wealthy of Silicon Valley to give to charitable causes.
The New York Times, Patricia Leigh Brown -- November 17, 1999
"Charity Grows, Evolves in Valley Venture Style"
Areas Tightfisted Image Fades as Tech Millionaires Reinvent Philanthropy"
Silicon Valley has began to shake off the national stereotype of giving peanuts to charity. Those making money off emerging technologies are beginning to see philanthropy as the "in" thing.
The San Jose Mercury News, Paul Rogers, Connie Skipitares, Larry Slonaker
June 20, 1999
Selected Full Articles
Reprinted with permission of Opulence Magazine.
"Giving is a "Feel Good Thing" for Computer Guru Kirsch"
by Dan Gleason
Millennium Issue, 2001, Opulence Magazine
When the United Way of Santa Clara County, Calif., desperately needed to be bailed out in 1998 from an $11 million debt that had accrued due to mismanagement, Steve and Michele Kirsch stepped up to the plate and wrote a check for $1 million. Other contributors followed their lead, and the United Way soon got back in the black.
Steve is a Silicon Valley computer guru whose technical penchant has accounted for notable inventions like the optical mouse and lucrative companies like Frame Technology and Internet search provider, Infoseek. His personal foundation donated nearly $6 million to an array of worthy causes last year.
The Kirsches, who live in Los Altos Hills, Calif., make contributions locally and globally and try to make intelligent, practical giving decisions rather than emotional ones. "If we fight for clean air now, we might not be choking on smog in the future," Steve says, referring to his significant contributions to electric vehicle research and development. They lead by example, driving and electric car around town and exuberantly supporting successful California legislation that has given solo-passenger-driven electric cars the right to use the carpool lane.
The Kirsches give generously to medical research, but they also donate considerable amounts of money to help scientists buy equipment needed to find undetectable asteroids. "Ninety percent of the asteroids that could hit earth haven't even been identified," Steve says. "A million dollars a year is a small price to pay for collision insurance."
Last year the Kirsches also gave $50,000 contributions each to varied causes that included neurology research, retina disease research, diabetes research, and to Steve's alma mater, MIT, to teach students better interpersonal skills. They contributed $200,000 to local libraries when they saw too many people and too few terminals with Internet access. They also heavily support that which they enjoy in their own community, such as the arts.
The Kirsches maintain a $50 million fund at the Community Foundation of Silicon Valley. But they don't simply throw money at problems. They contribute their valuable time. For example, Steve e-mailed 50 prominent CEOs when the electric vehicle legislation was up for vote, and he traveled to the State capitol to lobby for the bill.
The Kirsches also maintain a home page on the Internet, www.skirsch.com, which details his philanthropic philosophy and offers advice on giving. Steve says he doesn't care about getting recognition for his philanthropy, but, at the same time, he doesn't believe that anonymous giving is the way to go. "What causes many affluent people to give is that they see other, high-profile donors giving. A charitable cause supported by 'Anonymous' probably won't attract as much attention as one supported by your peers."
If you've been a Scrooge all your life, Steve and Michele remind you that, in Charles Dickens' famous story, Scrooge makes the right decision in the end.
This Worth Magazine cover story is reprinted with the permission of Worth Magazine.
"Donor Class Rules"
by John Sedgwick
December 1, 2000, Worth Magazine
New economy philanthropists Steve and Michele Kirsch strive to get statistically guaranteed returns on charitable investments and save the world at the same time
On Steve Kirsch's personal Web site (Skirsch.com), surfing alms-seekers find the kind of excuses they expect from a busy family man. His wife, Michele, is in law school; he himself is the chief executive of an Internet startup company, Propel Software Corporation; and they have two children still in school, so they don't have a lot of time for philanthropy.
Then comes the kicker: "So we picked a few easy goals we can accomplish in our spare time." He lists them: "Saving the world [from wayward asteroids and nuclear destruction]," "curing major diseases [cancers]," "cleaning up the air," "reforming education," "reforming politics" and so on, all the way down to "making it illegal to send mass promotional faxes and e-mails," the dreaded spam that is a particular irritant to an around-the-clock e-mailer like Kirsch.
Ah, the giddy nonchalance, the near-delusional sweep of charitable ambition surely, you're thinking, the man's joking. Not so. This is the new philanthropy as embraced by the new money of the new economy. In the vital center of the e-world, big money is pushing big ideas, and on the philanthropic front, few agendas are bigger than the Kirsches'. In his day job, Steve Kirsch is no more manic than any other hero of a Silicon Valley success story (or serial success stories, in his case). But in the grandeur, if not grandiosity, of his philanthropic ambitions, he is very likely the leader of the pack.
Kirsch began his entrepreneurial killings in the early 1980s, when he started Mouse Systems (the optical mouse, his invention) and pocketed $2 million when he sold it in 1988. Next came Frame Technology (software for designing high-quality documents), which brought him $20 million when he sold it in 1995. Then came Infoseek (an early type of search engine, his invention), which yielded him $200 million, out of a total of $5 billion for all investors, when he sold out to Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS) in 1999. Now he's on to Propel Software Corporation (an e-commerce software tool he dubs "Amazon in a box"), and the man is only 43 years old.
Yet, if the entrepreneurial Kirsch merely fits the new-economy myth, the philanthropic Kirsch seems bound to rewrite it. The heft of his charity is not what is so exceptional. Other Americans, from the new economy and the old, have given more than he. The Kirsches' eponymous foundation weighs in at a relatively modest $65 million. Its largest gift since its inception in 1999 was $2 million to create the Kirsch Center for Environmental Studies at De Anza College in Cupertino, Calif. But given that the Kirsches' fortune is currently only $150 million, the scale of their philanthropic commitment is astounding. They are two of the few donors under the age of 50 to make "Worth's" list of the 100 most generous Americans in lifetime giving, published in the April issue.
The key to Kirsch's approach to both charitable donations and private investments is the idea of leveraging. Some of this is born of necessity, of course, since he doesn't yet have billions to spend. But when it comes to levers, he's like Archimedes, who once boasted of needing only a place to stand and a lever to move the earth. The audacity, the scope, the soaring high spirits of this fellow citizen are no less extreme.
Consider Kirsch's bid to save the earth from a fatal battering by an asteroid. He has made donations totaling a mere $250,000 to the Spacewatch Project, an institute at the University of Arizona that, among other things, scans the skies for incoming asteroids. Silly? Not to Kirsch. "You can mathematically prove that there is no other charitable donation you can make that has a higher return on investment," he says. Two asteroids have already come close in the past few years. It's inevitable, he says: Someday one of these things will hit if, that is, it isn't identified well in advance and then somehow deflected. "It's a statistically guaranteed return on investment. Guaranteed!"
The same logic and passion inform his initiative to cure cancer. And not just one type of cancer, mind you, but all cancers. He spotted his point of leverage by accident one day when he went to the Stanford University Medical Center for treatment of a knee injury. There he fell into conversation with Joon Yun, M.D., a founder of Targesome, a biotech company that owns patent rights to a synthetic particle, called Targesome, which is a precisely targeted delivery vehicle for anticancer medicine. Its ability to focus on the cancer cells minimizes the damage to healthy cells."Targesome's drug works by cutting off the cancer cells' blood supply," Kirsch explains. He checked out Targesome with H. William Strauss, M.D., the chief of nuclear medicine at Stanford and a member of Targesome's advisory board, who gave the outfit a thumbs-up. Kirsch promptly applied his lever a $2 million investment, this time from his personal fortune, not his charitable endowment. Yun says the money has already made a huge difference, having paid for the gathering of preliminary data that, in turn, has secured $7.5 million in further financing. Kirsch figures it's a win for him whether or not Targesome succeeds: If the investment doesn't pan out, he will be able to deduct the loss on his income tax. But if it clicks, he will donate the profits to the Kirsch Foundation "and," he says, "I cure cancer."
Kirsch gets enough irony into such assertions to be disarming.But it is impressive, too, that the Kirsches often put their mouths where their money is. To clean up the air, for example, both of them have gone public as major backers of new California legislation that would encourage the use of nonpolluting electric and natural-gas-powered vehicles by allowing them entry into high-occupancy-vehicle lanes on state highways. In their support of this legislation, the Kirsches have invested hundreds of hours sending e-mails to solicit support in the Valley, testifying before the legislature and personally lobbying politicians all the way up to Governor Gray Davis. The work paid off last fall when assembly bill 71 passed overwhelmingly.
Why does Kirsch put so much effort into making what appears to be a tiny dent in a titanic problem? "Promoting electric cars is a step in the direction of California weaning itself from fossil fuels," Kirsch says. "If we can do it in California, we can do it in the rest of the United States. And if we can do it in the rest of the U.S., we can do it in other countries around the world." Where most people might see traffic perks for electric vehicles, Kirsch sees another way to move the earth.
The Kirsches' philanthropy isn't all so far out, so to speak, as posting sentries for incoming asteroids. Besides creating their center for the environment at De Anza College, their foundation has given more than $500,000 in support for campaign finance reform. And on the volunteer-cum-donor front, Kirsch has worked tirelessly with former California senator Alan Cranston and others in a determined crusade to pass the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. Dozens of other initiatives have been more limited in scope but equally bold, such as $100,000 for the Mars Society's efforts to explore the Red Planet or $10,000 to bring solar power to South African schools. So far this year, their foundation is on track to dispense more than $10 million, more than double the federally mandated minimum of five percent of total assets that foundations must pay out.
The Kirsches are well aware of the larger context of their giving. They see themselves (and are seen by interested observers) as key figures in the so-called new philanthropy that is gradually shifting American charity's center of gravity from the East Coast to the West, from the old to the young, from the old economy to the new, and in the process unleashing a stunning everything-is-possible attitude in the donor class. "We're breaking molds here," Kirsch says. "For us, philanthropy is not some East Coast thing of dressing up and going to charity balls. We're doing it our way."
This is a little unfair to the East Coast, of course. Without functions or events like charity balls, America's famed largesse might turn off as suddenly as a summer shower. The Kirsches have been known to attend a few parties themselves. Michele, who has given away millions from her own discretionary fund at the foundation, finds these events awkward. She describes how people approach her now: "'Oh, Mrs. Kirsch,' they say. It's almost as if they're in awe. It's weird." According to her, however, Steve enjoys "the public side" of philanthropy. And that's what charity balls are: public gatherings where benefactors of one sort or another are confirmed in the worthiness of their causes and in the benevolence of their hearts.
Kirsch has become an exemplary leader of West Coast philanthropy precisely by going public, as it were, with his benevolence. He makes it a point never to give money anonymously and doesn't shy away from cajoling others in high-tech land to stop "sitting back on their assets," as he likes to say. Consequently, says Gordon Moore, chairman emeritus of Intel (Nasdaq: INTC), who has received more than one Kirsch e-mail soliciting support, "Steve Kirsch has picked up the philanthropic leadership here in Silicon Valley." Moore regards Kirsch as the successor to the fabled David Packard, the co-founder of Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HWP) who became the Valley's first patron saint of philanthropy with his support of local charities. But Kirsch is a successor with a twist: Packard concentrated on local issues, whereas Kirsch thinks globally. "He's getting into some pretty big areas," Moore adds, "the kind that attract people's attention." Peter Hero, the president of the Community Foundation Silicon Valley, which is emerging as the preeminent institution for local social change, concurs: "Steve exemplifies the best of the new philanthropic attitude. He's smart, he's willing to take risks, and he's having a lot of fun."
The couple's youth is key, since it gives them influence with newly gilded Gen Xers who aren't yet ready for their own foundations. Some have banded together to create SV2, a new social-ventures fund within the Community Foundation Silicon Valley, and not long ago, the Kirsches hosted a party not, of course, a charity ball for SV2 at their house, where Ronnie Lott, a former San Francisco 49er defensive back, talked about the importance of giving back to the community.
Such efforts seem to be paying off. Although the young cybernauts in the Valley used to just pocket their IPO winnings, they are increasingly earmarking a good portion of the haul directly for philanthropy. One hot new company, Equinix (Nasdaq: EQIX), announced that it was starting a foundation just 20 days after going public this summer. As for the problem of where to give the money, a significant gift from the Kirsch Foundation amounts to a Good Housekeeping seal of approval, certifying the recipient as worthy of support. Says Jay Harris, publisher of the "San Jose Mercury News," "To be able to say to others in the new economy that Steve and Michele have ponied up $200,000 to support a local arts group makes it more acceptable for others to step up. It really helps."
Home base for this dynamo of charitable energy is a spanking new house in fasionable Los Altos Hills. From the outside, it looks bit like a Minoan palace, albeit one with two electric vehicles in the driveway Steve's GM sedan, Michele's Toyota SUV. Inside, of course, it's pure 21st century a "smart" house with automatic everything, all run on environmentally correct green power. The Kirsches are still trying to work out the technological glitches (the most recent punch list runs to 10 pages). But as they sit for their interview in their curvilinear living room, they seem entirely content. The sound of a trickling fountain in the front hall mingles with the easy-listening soundtrack of 1970s hits on the ubiquitous sound system; the decor is in restfully muted earth tones; two Sub-Zero refrigerators sit in the adjoining kitchen, and a heated pool and tennis court are just outside.
The two have been married for seven years now. They were introduced by the glitzy socialite and part-time matchmaker Pari Livermore. "After our first date, I thought, It's not going to work," recalls Michele, a Mills College graduate who was working in commercial real estate at the time. "But Steve was a man on a mission. He coaxed it, massaged it." And four months later, she said yes. The same complementarity remains, with Steve the outgoing one, Michele more cautious. Still, it's fun to see them together. Steve is Mister Up. He runs wild with his enthusiasms, his voice booming, his hands flying about, his oddly high-pitched laugh bouncing off the walls. As he talks about the antiasteroid project, or just about anything else, he can hardly contain himself. "We're driving the earth without car insurance," he exclaims. "If the earth were an automobile, we would be required to have collision insurance." But will it be enough just to identify the incoming asteroid? "Believe me, if we find something that will hit us in 10 years, I guarantee that Congress will allocate the funds to deflect it. It will be the first bill that happens."
Neither Steve nor Michele were born philanthropists, of course. Few people are. She was raised in Davis, Calif., the daughter of an engineer. He grew up in West L.A., the son of a CPA. But Kirsch was, as he says, "a computer guy," and that has made all the difference. Kirsch was 10 when he used his first computer, an Olivetti Underwood Programma 101. "It was basically a giant programmable calculator," he says, but it fascinated him. He passed an exam to take classes at the local Computer Learning Center, but the instructor thought the presence of a 12-year-old would disturb the adults taking the course, and offered him weekend computer time on a giant IBM 360 mainframe instead. A year or two later, Kirsch was sneaking out of the house at 4:00 a.m. to bicycle to the computer room at UCLA, where a team of computer scientists led by the legendary Vint Cerf was developing what would become the first node on the Internet with a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. "Little Stevie," as Kirsch was called, had managed to ingratiate himself with Cerf, who may have seen something of himself in the eager little boy. Kirsch, amazingly, was given the task of writing the program to send and receive e-mail on the massive Scientific Data Systems Sigma 7 computer. More amazingly, he succeeded.
The rest is in the entrepreneurial record books. He became a philanthropist in 1990. He gave away "maybe a hundred here, a hundred there." Soon he found himself on the development committee for a mental health clinic in Palo Alto, and not knowing the first thing about charitable fund-raising, he turned to veteran Valley philanthropist Leonard Ely for advice. "You know, Steve," Ely replied, "some people in this world want to give money away." Self-evident as this thought may sound, Kirsch found it astonishing, and he later compared the discovery to the moral awakening of Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol." As he explains: "It's not like you see people on the street saying, 'Want some money? Can I give you 20 bucks?'" He realized that he was one of those people who wanted to give, and he started a donor-advised charitable fund, managed by a community foundation.
He didn't have the money to give heavily until after he married Michele, in 1993. One of the first things they did was sit down for what she calls a "pie-in-the-sky" discussion of philanthropy.
"We focused on what's important to us," Michele recalls. The environment, education, and community, they decided. "That was the seed of everything we've done, right there." To actually do anything, however, they needed some serious money. That arrived on the day of their first anniversary. They had gone to the Post Ranch Inn at Big Sur to celebrate when word came in about the big score from Frame. Steve said that he was going to put $5 million of it into the donor-advised fund. "It wasn't as if we were living like millionaires at that point," Michele says. But all the same, she told him, "Sure, Steve, if that's what you want."
As Steve and Michele describe their philanthropy, it's clear that something extremely personal is at work here, and it's all the more heartfelt for that. "I'm operating out of self-interest," Steve says. "Enlightened self-interest. What I do may appear to be for unselfish reasons, but actually it's for me and for the people close to me, my family especially."
He does not seek to save the world for its own sake, and why should he? He wants to keep his family from being annihilated by a stray asteroid and if other families are saved, so much the better. Personal reasons guided his interest in cancer research. He was desperate to find a cure for stepfather Harold Karol's stomach cancer. Michele says he was "devastated" when Karol died. "Lots of his friends have cancer, too," she adds. Similarly, Kirsch has invested in research on macular degeneration, which his mother suffers from. His foundation has also given $100,000 to Angela Christiano, a prominent geneticist who is hoping to reverse baldness, which Steve suffers from, by finding the genetic switch that governs the process.
There's nothing new as in "new philanthropy" in this. Outwardly, the spirit he brings to his giving epitomizes the old spirit of the American West with its wild enthusiasm, its hyperbole, its boisterous derring-do, its sheer spaciousness, its abundance. That spirit is (one hopes) timeless.
Another aspect of Kirsch's spirit, however, is bound to a time and place. Consider the background: The charitable impulses of the American rich have always had to break through a formidable obstacle the dispiriting fear that the objects of their charity will play them for a fool, that they might be had. But this was before the ascendency, in the business world, of the venture capitalist, the angel investor and, above all, the highly educated, utterly unabashed, problem-defying technologist-inventor turned serial entrepreneur. These people don't know from fear. Or if they do, they also know that whatever money they lose, they can always pick themselves up and make some more. Lots more.
Maybe the really new new thing in Kirsch's spirit is that the ethos of the new economy allows him to do what only the rarest of earlier philanthropists could do. And that is to integrate the two-sidedness that emerges in a successful businessperson's mind when the giving mood begins to stir. Making money and giving it away are generally perceived as two very different, perhaps antithetical, operations. In Silicon Valley, however, they are two sides of the same coin, which is problem solving. "I never planned to be a philanthropist or a do-gooder or whatever," Kirsch explains with a shrug. "I just love inventing new things and solving problems." This is clearly the right attitude for leaders of the next generation of philanthropists who will take on the challenges of the new century.
Back to top
home | who we are | how to apply for grants | what we've done
what we care about | why give