Last year I pledged to give the majority of my wealth back to the society that helped generate it, to do it thoughtfully, to get started soon, and to keep at it until the safe is empty. There’s no question in my mind that anyone’s personal wealth is the product of a collective effort, and of social structures which present opportunities to some people, and obstacles to countless others.
Like many, I watched the first half of 2020 with a mixture of heartbreak and horror. Life will never stop finding fresh ways to expose inequities in our systems; or waking us up to the fact that a civilization this imbalanced is not only unjust, but also unstable. What fills me with hope is the thought of what will come if each of us reflects on what we can offer. Opportunities that flowed from the mere chance of skin color, sexual orientation, gender, or zip code may have yielded resources that can be powerful levers for change. People troubled by recent events can make new connections between privileges they’ve enjoyed and benefits they’ve taken for granted. From there, many will choose to share some of what they have with people whose equal participation is essential to the construction of a better world.
I began work to complete my pledge with the belief that my life had yielded two assets that could be of particular value to others: the money these systems helped deliver to me, and a conviction that people who have experience with inequities are the ones best equipped to design solutions. Last fall, I asked a team of non-profit advisors with key representation from historically marginalized race, gender, and sexual identity groups to help me find and assess organizations having major impact on a variety of causes. Though this work is ongoing and will last for years, I’m posting an update today because my own reflection after recent events revealed a dividend of privilege I’d been overlooking: the attention I can call to organizations and leaders driving change.
The non-profits listed below were selected for transformative work in one of the following areas of need:
Total given to date:
Racial Equity: $ 586,700,000
LGBTQ+ Equity: $ 46,000,000
Gender Equity: $ 133,000,000
Economic Mobility: $ 399,500,000
Empathy & Bridging Divides: $ 55,000,000
Functional Democracy: $ 72,000,000
Public Health: $ 128,300,000
Global Development: $ 130,000,000
Climate Change: $ 125,000,000
On this list, 91% of the racial equity organizations are run by leaders of color, 100% of the LGBTQ+ equity organizations are run by LGBTQ+ leaders, and 83% of the gender equity organizations are run by women, bringing lived experience to solutions for imbalanced social systems. Driven by a deep belief in the value different backgrounds bring to problem-solving on any issue, we selected for diversity in leadership across all categories of giving, supporting vital variety of perspective and experience in solutions on every cause. All of these leaders and organizations have a track record of effective management and significant impact in their fields. I gave each a contribution and encouraged them to spend it on whatever they believe best serves their efforts. Unless organization leadership requested otherwise, all commitments were paid up front and left unrestricted to provide them with maximum flexibility. I recommend these organizations to anyone similarly excited by the idea of empowering leaders well-positioned to accelerate progress. Every one of them is tackling complex challenges that will require sustained effort over many years, while simultaneously addressing consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. And every one of them would benefit from more allies looking to share wealth of all types and sizes, including money, volunteer time, supplies, advocacy, publicity, networks and relationships, collaboration, encouragement, and trust.
The Glasswing is a tiny butterfly with invisible wings that can carry 40 times its own weight. Over the last fourteen months, I’ve been inspired by the capacity of individuals to lift others: an association of women professionals mentoring girls through the same program that paid for their own educations; a network of low-income families lifting themselves out of poverty by supporting and advising each other.
The organizations named below offer a daily reminder that we can each carry more than we imagine. And they offer an opportunity to invest our good fortune in change, no matter what form our good fortune has taken.
I’ll highlight more as my giving continues in the months and years to come.