David Rubenstein, Michael J. Fox Give Tips to New Donors
Paul Tudor Jones was about 32 years old when he saw businessman Eugene Lang on “60 Minutes” talking about “adopting” inner city children and offering to pay their college tuition.
“I realized that life was more than just worrying about myself, my needs, who I was. There was something definitely missing,” Jones, founder of Tudor Investment Corp., says. “The next day I picked up the phone and called him. That began whatever career in philanthropy I’ve have.”
Today Jones joins Michael Steinhardt, Julian Robertson, David Rubenstein, and Michael J. Fox in a free video archive at GiveSmart.org. The website features more than 1,000 files of 64 philanthropists revealing everything from their personal stories to nuts-and-bolts advice, in clips no more than five minutes long.
Boston-based Bridgespan Group, a consulting firm for donors, nonprofits and foundations that operates as a nonprofit, created the website as part of its mission to advance philanthropy. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave $5 million to the project.
“We can only work on 65 to 70 projects a year,” Thomas Tierney, chairman and cofounder of Bridgespan, said in an interview. Determined to increase the company’s reach without expanding its size, Tierney thought, “We can do that with knowledge and information.”
The project comes at a historic time, he added. Donors are engaging at a younger age while committing longer and more rigorously to their philanthropic choices -- a shift from leaving such decisions to the end of life.
“There’s an absolutely unprecedented opportunity for social change because of the resources, the time, money and influence that wealthy people and others are devoting,” Tierney said.
“Philanthropy has the potential to be an American export,” Tierney said. “Philanthropy in the Middle East or in Brazil or India is going to take on a different form. But the fundamental human motivation to wrestle with the question, What can I do to help make my society better? that’s asked at all income levels and cultures.”
The GiveSmart.org philanthropists, all U.S.-based, answered 40 to 60 questions in their interviews.
Some share success stories: Michael Milken discusses speeding up the pace of prostate cancer research by getting academic and pharmaceutical cancer researchers to talk at a retreat.
Jones advises on the different types of people to assemble for the board of a “not-for-profit for widgets.” His formula, including celebrities, money people and opinion makers, sounds similar to the makeup of the Robin Hood Foundation, which he cofounded.
Rubenstein’s secret for serving on many boards: “I’m blessed by the fact I only need five hours of sleep on a daily basis. I do tend to regard Saturday and Sunday as work days.”
There is some contrarian-sounding advice on how to approach philanthropy.
“‘You’re doing yourself a disservice as a donor and you’re making life harder on the organization if you think about it as, they are asking you for money,” Josh Bekenstein, managing director of Bain Capital, says. “If you are a philanthropist and you want to give back, you need to find organizations that can help you accomplish your goal.”
The advice to start young is common.
“You’re going to make mistakes, and you might as well make them when you don’t have a lot of money to make them with,” Robertson, founder of Tiger Management LLC, says.
Others stress taking chances.
“It’s the portfolio approach,” says John Arnold, founder of Centaurus Advisors LLC and cofounder of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. “We’ll fund organizations that are doing great work. The risk is that we’ll only fund those organizations. So we tilt as much as we can to being more aggressive than the market.”
Jones describes his “abject failure” achieving results for the children he adopted from Bedford Stuyvesant.
“I built a home for them at my place in Virginia. We’d got down there two weeks every winter. We did every kind of field trip you can imagine. I was involved with them in their homes and I was going over report cards with them,” Jones says. “But I wasn’t providing the intellectual capital to help them actually prepare for college.”
That experience shaped his future endeavors. “You can throw all the energy, all the love, all the money at it you want,” he says, “but you’re not going to achieve your goal if you don’t have a great way to get there.”
To contact the writer on this story: Amanda Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @amandagordon.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at email@example.com.