NET WORTH: Unknown
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Founder of Sorenson Media, Cofounder of Sorenson Capital
FUNDING AREAS: Social Impact, Education & Entrepreneurial Training, Healthcare
OVERVIEW: James Lee Sorenson, his wife Krista, and their family do their grantmaking through the Sorenson Impact Foundation, which takes an investment approach in its grantmaking. In its three primary funding areas, the foundation supports projects that have "measurable impact," are sustainable, and create positive change. Grantmaking involves anti-poverty, education, entrepreneurship, healthcare, and more. The foundation also makes investments in for-profit social enterprises. Sorenson gave $13 million to David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah to create the James Lee Sorenson Global Impact Investing Center.
BACKGROUND: The son of late billionaire James LeVoy Sorenson, James Lee Sorenson graduated from University of Utah. In 1995, Sorenson founded Sorenson Media, a leader in video encoding and streaming tools. Sorenson Media has been instrumental in bringing internet video to Quicktime and Sorenson Media's encoding technology has been used for website trailers for Disney, Lucasfilm, MGM, and Paramount. Sorenson also co-founded Sorenson Capital. The Sorenson family is worth nearly $2 billion, according to Forbes.
SOCIAL IMPACT: For the Sorenson Foundation, "social impact" means helping the poor "through programs and initiatives that foster upward social and economic mobility." Sorenson has contributed to United Way of Salt Lake's Changing the Odds Campaign, a "collaboration of business leaders, government agencies, philanthropic groups, all working together to bring in millions that will benefit Utah's young people." Sorenson has also supported Utah Food Bank, Ronald McDonald House, and Wisebanyan, "a free online financial portfolio management company with low account balance requirements and zero initiation." It is worth noting that Wisebanyan is a program-related investment of the Sorenson Impact Foundation, meaning that the support is for a for-profit social enterprise. Another program-related investment is Worldhaus, an "Indian construction company building affordable, eco-friendly and modular-kit homes for the economically weaker populations of urban, rural and slum locations." (Click here for a list of other program-related investments.)
EDUCATION & ENTREPRENEURIAL TRAINING: Sorenson has strongly supported his alma mater, the University of Utah. In 2013, he gave $13 million to David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah to create the James Lee Sorenson Global Impact Investing Center. The center "engages students in creating sustainable change on regional and global levels through high-impact social investment, innovative curriculum and research." Support has also gone to BYU, Krista's alma mater. Sorenson has supported the BYU ARTS Partnership to promote arts education in Utah's schools. Sorenson's late mother, Beverley, was an advocate of arts education. In 2008, the Utah State Legislature funded the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program, bringing an integrated teaching model to classrooms across the state. Money has also gone to Junior Achievement, and to American Indian Services, which provides scholarships to low-income Native Americans.
HEALTHCARE: Sorenson has supported Ouelessebougou Alliance, which "works in partnership with village citizens to transform the quality of life in the Ouelessebougou region of Mali by delivering sustainable programs in health, education and economic development." They have also supported IVUmed, "dedicated to teaching urology in developing countries," Vittana Foundation, which provides "international microfinance loans for students," and Village Capital, which "finds, trains, and funds entrepreneurs solving global problems." Sorenson has worked with CHOICE Humanitarian, and traveled to Nepal. Sorenson also supports Maliheh Free Clinic in Salt Lake City.
LOOKING FORWARD: Following in the footsteps of his parents, whose Sorenson Legacy Foundation is a robust Utah funder, James Lee Sorenson is a funder worth watching. The foundation has been giving a little more than $1 million a year, of late.