Why Is This Tech Leader Doubling Down on Children's Hospitals?

Marc Benioff is nothing short of a charitable mastermind. Back in 1999, before Salesforce had any profits, equity, or employees, Benioff devised his now-famous “1/1/1” model of giving, through which one percent each of the company’s profits, equity, and employees’ time would go toward charitable ends. He jokes that it was easy to implement from the beginning, because one percent of zero is still zero. Now, Salesforce churns out $3 billion in profits annually, and the Salesforce Foundation has committed more than $40 million and over 400,000 hours in donated community service over the years.

Indeed, it’s safe to say that Salesforce’s giving has always been a little more successful, a little shinier than Benioff’s own. Together with his wife Lynne Krilich, Benioff began dabbling in private giving about the same time, but he found his piecemeal gifts to a monastery in Bhutan and a hospital in Hawaii, among others, left him unfulfilled. He wanted to feel like he was making a real difference. He wanted results. So, in 2010, he changed tack. He reeled in all the disparate branches of his private giving—which had offloaded $20 million over the course of a decade—and made the decision to devote the full force of his and Lynne’s private philanthropy to the UCSF Children’s Hospital.

They lobbed in $100 million. It was splashy, it was brave. It was a little flamboyant. A $100 million gift out of left field might’ve been enough to communicate the depth of Benioff’s newfound commitment to the children’s hospital, but clearly they are thinking bigger. So, they did it again. This week Marc Benioff and his wife gave another $100 million, splitting this gift between UCSF and the Children's Hospital Oakland. “The gift will be used to strengthen the existing talent and programs in basic and clinical research and patient care at the two premier institutions, as well as attract new expertise, in order to accelerate the development of innovative solutions for children's health on both sides of the San Francisco Bay, as well as nationally and globally,” says the hospital.

While this battening-down of personal giving isn’t great news for dark horse charities who might’ve caught Benioff’s eye before, this shift doesn’t necessarily mean Benioff won’t find himself considering other avenues of philanthropy in the future.

He was worth $1.2 billion in 2011, and now he’s worth $3.1 billion. Salesforce keeps on cranking. His UCSF involvement has done nothing but good things for his image as a philanthropist—and he’s said recently that (a) he wants to give away most of his money before he dies (and he’s only 49), and (b) he and his wife feel a real debt of gratitude to the San Francisco area which has “been so kind” to them.

So, if you’re SF-based, don’t lose hope. This guy has a heart of gold, and we’re betting that he’s learned all kinds of lessons about personal giving in the four years since he changed course—lessons that may make him a more diversified, but also shrewder, giver in the future.