October 19, 2022

These 5 Business Leaders Turned to Charity — Here’s How It’s Working for Them

When is enough, enough?

Few are fortunate enough to know the answer to this question. And once you’ve answered it to your satisfaction, many other questions pop up.

Like, “what do I do with my ‘enough’?”

For these five entrepreneurs, executives, and business leaders, the answer is some variation of “give it back.”

These 5 Business Leaders Turned to Charity — Here’s How It’s Working for Them: eAskme
These 5 Business Leaders Turned to Charity — Here’s How It’s Working for Them: eAskme

Of course, not all of it, and not all at once (with one notable exception). But all have decided to share a considerable portion of their wealth, time, and talent with the less fortunate.

Here’s how it’s working out for them.

1. Steve Streit:

Green Dot founder Steve Streit is one of the most important entrepreneurs you’ve (probably) never heard of.

He founded one of the first proper fintech startups — a groundbreaking payments company you’ve probably interacted with in some fashion — and grew it into a multi-billion-dollar company.

Streit left Green Dot a few years back to focus on other pursuits, including charitable work.

His personal charity Patti’s Way, named in honor of his late mother, supports single parents and their families — giving them the means and freedom to nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs.

2. Bill Gates:

Steve Streit might be a new name, but you’ve almost certainly heard of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

With former wife Melinda Gates, he launched one of the most impactful foundations of the past 50 years — one that has had a hand in addressing seemingly intractable global challenges.

And along with fellow multi-billionaires like Warren Buffett, Gates and his wife pledged to donate the vast majority of their wealth by the end of their lives, ensuring their billions go to good use.

3. Pierre Omidyar:

As an entrepreneur, Pierre Omidyar had nearly as big an impact as Bill Gates, though you’d never know it by his low-key reputation. (He mostly keeps to himself these days.)

Omidyar founded eBay back in the 1990s, supercharging the nascent ecommerce industry.

After stepping back from day-to-day operations there, he turned his attention to charity.

He founded the Omidyar Network, “a social change venture that reimagines critical systems, and the ideas that govern them, to build more inclusive and equitable societies.”

Just as eBay re-imagined what was possible in retail, the Omidyar Network is re-imagining what’s possible in philanthropy — and applying the same startup mentality to pressing social challenges.

4. Yvon Chinouard:

“Climbing bum”-turned-entrepreneur Yvon Chinourd built Patagonia into a multibillion-dollar apparel brand.

He sat at the helm for years as it became one of the most recognizable labels in outdoor fashion.

He showed the way for countless other lifestyle entrepreneurs.

And then he literally gave away the company.

More accurately, he transferred control of Patagonia to a holding company that would use its profits (some $100 million in 2021) to fight climate change.

In other words, Chinouard was willing to shortchange his family’s future — his kids won’t inherit the company — to make a brighter one for the other seven billion people on the planet.

5. Mackenzie Bezos:

Sometimes, entrepreneurs turn to philanthropy. In other cases, philanthropists turn to entrepreneurship.

Call it entrepreneurial philanthropy. That’s Mackenzie Bezos’ approach to giving.

For years, Mackenzie was a behind-the-scenes mover and shaker content to let her husband (Jeff, of Amazon fame) have the spotlight.

When they separated, she got billions — and promptly gave much of it away.

But passive charity is not the Mackenzie Bezos way. Like the other leaders on this list, she’s closely involved in the details of her philanthropy — bringing the same entrepreneurial mindset that built Amazon to bear on global poverty, disease, and hunger.

Be the Change:

Each of these people has embraced the whole “be the change you want to see in the world” thing. It’s working out well for them.

For those who haven’t enjoyed quite as much material success, “being the change” is still possible.

It just looks a little different, and we might have to be content not to have such an outsize impact on the world (at least on our own).

We can still take inspiration from these entrepreneurs-turned-philanthropists, though.

After all, even if we don’t give away everything, it’s nice to feel like our actions make the world a better place.

If you still have any question, feel free to ask me via comments.

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