NET WORTH: $66.3 billion
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Founder and CEO of Amazon
FUNDING AREAS: Medicare Research, Education, Science
OVERVIEW: Bezos is relatively quiet as a philanthropist, although the Bezos Family Foundation, run by his parents, is very active.
BACKGROUND: Jeff Bezos believes in the concept of self-reliance. It probably came from his upbringing. His biological father and mother were just teenagers when Jeff came along. By the time he was four, Jeff's biological father was out of the picture and his mother married his stepfather, Mike Bezos. The family eventually ended up in Miami when Jeff was a teenager, and it was there that his love for discovering how things worked surfaced (he reportedly turned his parents' garage into a makeshift lab of sorts). It was also there, in his teenage years, that Bezos started his first business, the Dream Institute, an education-based summer camp for fifth and sixth grade children.
Fast forward a few years and Jeff Bezos was graduating summa cum laude from Princeton and working in a number of different positions on Wall Street, finally landing at the investment firm D.E. Shaw, where just a few years later he was crowned the youngest vice president in the firm's history. Bezos left his cushy job at D.E. Shaw less than 10 years later to move to Seattle to open an online bookstore. That bookstore, which opened on July 16, 1995, would go on to become online retail giant Amazon.com.
Even with all of his success and vision, Bezos has been criticized in the past for being "stingy" when it came to charity. For example, an openly critical Slate article in 2009 said about Bezos, "There are lemonade stands that donate more to charity." An article in the Seattle Times in March 2012 took Amazon and Bezos to task for not donating more to hometown charities in the Seattle area. The article noted that Amazon had given to local writers' groups, but said, "These are small sums for a company with a cash pile of $5 billion and more than $1,500 in sales every second." Whatever the case may be, Bezos takes a calculated approach to where his philanthropic dollars are headed, stating, "Giving away money takes as much attention as building a successful company."
The Bezos Family Foundation was founded in 2003 and is run by Jeff Bezos's parents, and though Jeff's name doesn't appear anywhere on foundation documents, it is nearly fully funded with Amazon stock.
HEALTH RESEARCH: One of Jeff's first major gifts was a $10 million donation to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to jumpstart a program to expand the use of certain types of immunotherapy for breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers. Similarly, Bezos and his wife MacKenzie gave a donation of $15 million to Princeton University, their alma mater, to help create the Bezos Center for Neural Circuit Dynamics, which focuses on a relatively new field of research known as "connectomics," and includes measuring neural connectivity and mining that data to better understand the brain, which may prove crucial in understanding and treating a variety of neurological diseases. Jeff and MacKenzie more recently gave $20 million more immunotherapy research. (See profile of MacKenzie Bezos here.)
EDUCATION: The Bezos Family Foundation has given millions in grants, both large and small, for education. It also funds the Bezos Scholars Program at the Aspen Institute every year. The issue here though is that most of this money comes from the stock the Bezos gave his parents, rather than from Bezos himself. As far as his personal education giving, Bezos is also a supporter of Worldreader, a nonprofit started by one of his former employees that brings reading to parts of the world which previously had no access through the use of e-readers. Bezos donated about $300,000 to help start the program, and donated another $500,000 in recent years.
ARTS & CULTURE: Bezos gave $10 million to the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) to establish a Center for Innovation at its new location. He also put $42 million towards the prototype of a project referred to as the Clock of the Long Now, a clock meant to keep time for 10,000 years.
LINK: Bezos Family Foundation