NET WORTH: $850 million
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Cofounder of Facebook
FUNDING AREAS: Marriage Equality, Health, Economic Development
OVERVIEW: Chris Hughes has a strong background in social media and political fundraising, and he's started bringing those experiences to philanthropy. He has strong progressive values, and a mind for strategic problem solving, so he's definitely one to look out for in the coming decades as somebody who could make a real difference in his efforts to better society.
BACKGROUND: Hughes is best known as a Cofounder of Facebook, which he started with his Harvard roommates Mark Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz, and Edurado Saverin. Unlike Zuckerberg, who dropped out to launch the company, Hughes graduated magna cum laude with a degree in history and literature. After graduating, Hughes assumed a position at Facebook before leaving to serve as the director of online organizing for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, which has been described as a "tour de force" and changed the way future online political campaigns will be run. After the campaign, Hughes took some time off to travel before going back to work at Facebook. He also became an Entrepreneur in Residence at the venture firm General Catalyst Partners, and started a personal project called Jumo, which was designed to help people discover nonprofit organizations that support the issues and causes they care about, and get involved. Jumo was eventually acquired by Good. In 2012, Hughes bought a majority stake in the faltering New Republic magazine, briefly serving as its editor-in-chief, and currently holding the title of Publisher and Executive Chairman.
PHILOSOPHY: Hughes learned a lot from his experiences with Facebook and the Obama campaign, and has carried that knowledge into his philanthropy. The year he spent traveling was also influential, Hughes claims that he decided to form Jumo after he spent a year after the Obama campaign traveling in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. "You learn pretty fast that there is no magic solution to poverty. There are not even a single set of solutions or strategies that are going to be the answer to all of these challenges.... You have to support all the individuals and organizations working on the ground doing good, valuable work."
Of his decision to create Jumo, Hughes said, "People have a genuine desire to engage with the world around them in a meaningful way, but the Internet just hasn't yet caught up with that desire yet." The idea was not to re-invent the wheel, but to incorporate content that had already been created elsewhere and add robust tools for sharing it with others. If philanthropists could build relationships with people, make them understand what is at stake, and make it easy to get involved, people will not hesitate to do so, not just once but repeatedly, Hughes reasoned, seeking to maximize his impact.
Speaking of impact, Hughes also expresses support—like many of his young, tech-colleagues—in being able to track philantrhopic efforts to a degree so that donors are able to most effectively maximize their dollars, as we've covered here.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Hughes recently made a donation and joined the board of GiveDirectly, a microloan program that allows people to deposit cash directly in the bank accounts of poor Kenyan families. He has already met with a number of entrepreneurs and philanthropic venture capitalists to get them to adopt the model, which gives poor families the money to support their local economies.
HEALTH: In 2010, Hughes was appointed by the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS to a 17-member "High Level Commission" of renowned politicians, business leaders, human rights activists, and scientists tasked with spearheading a "social and political action campaign aimed at galvanizing support for effective HIV prevention programmes."
LGBT RIGHTS: Hughes is openly gay, and married to Sean Eldridge, the political director of an organization called Freedom to Marry, of which Hughes is a major supporter.
LOOKING FORWARD: Hughes' commitment to progressive values is strong, so look for him to get more involved with minority, civil and human rights. We may also see him lend support for issues such as drug policy reform, which Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz is also involved with, or gun control, but the real place to look is in campaign finance reform. Help for gay and questioning teens and anti-bullying projects also seem like natural fits.
- Editor, The New Republic, 60 Madison Avenue, Suite 1001, New York, NY 10010, 646-861-1924