SOURCE OF WEALTH: eBay
FUNDING AREAS: Environment, Education, Economic Development, Health, Humanitarian Efforts, Social Change
OVERVIEW: After turning eBay from a small startup to a multibillion-dollar success story, Skoll decided to use his wealth for philanthropic causes. The Skoll Foundation is now the largest social entrepreneurship foundation in the world, using its assets to support organizations doing innovative work in a variety of fields, including education, the environment, economic development, health, and humanitarian efforts.
BACKGROUND: Jeff Skoll was the first employee, first president, and one-time second-largest stockholder at eBay, behind the company's founder Pierre Omidyar. Skoll was instrumental in the creation of the eBay Foundation. Due to back problems Skoll retired from eBay but this move did not stop him from launching the Skoll Foundation and Participant Media, a Los Angeles-based media company that funds feature films and documentaries which promote social values while also remaining commercially viable.
Skoll has donated approximately $1 billion in eBay stock to his foundation, which supports a variety of causes. The Skoll Foundation holds assets of more than half a billion, ranking it as one of the largest social entrepreneurship foundations in the world. Participant Media also has been incredibly successful, producing a number of award-winning films and documentaries aimed at inspiring social change. Participant Media's assets include Takepart.com, launched in 2011, and Pivot, a digital cable and satellite television channel focusing on social advocacy that was launched in 2013.
PHILOSOPHY: The basic strategy of the Skoll Foundation has been to support social entrepreneurs who have already developed, tested, and proven their approach to tackling important social issues. Through a phased approach to grantmaking that may also include a variety of other financial instruments and is inspired by best-of-breed venture investors, the Skoll Foundation then leverages its resources to replicate and upscale the impact of these social entrepreneurs.
The Skoll Foundation places an emphasis on "analyzing the issue ecosystems where our social entrepreneurs operate and timing our investments when the ecosystem is ripe for change." This process includes funding policy and advocacy organizations that can help leverage government resources and using less traditional approaches such as leveraging the assets of his media company.
ENVIRONMENT: Skoll believes that climate change is one of the biggest issues facing humanity in the 21st century which is why his largest charitable donation was a $30 million contribution to the Alliance for Climate Protection Campaign.
Skoll has chosen to focus on stopping deforestation as a key component of lowering carbon outputs. Skoll supports working with communities to improve land management, promoting policies that slow or arrest deforestation at a local or national level, using technology to improve monitoring, and employing other innovative market-driven solutions through a number of organizations working in this area.
Among the other environmental organizations Skoll supports are the American Council on Renewable Energy, the Marine Stewardship Council, Fair Trade USA, the BioRegional Development Group, and Ceres, an organization dedicated to working with institutional investors who believe that acting on climate change is in their companies' best interest. This support shows a real dedication to using his charitable dollars to leverage both government and private resources. Skoll also is an investor in the electric car company Tesla and the owner of a third Tesla roadster off the line.
EDUCATION: One of Skoll's main missions in his philanthropy is to "advance innovations that enhance a person's ability to improve her/his economic well-being and personal dignity." And one of the biggest ways to do this is to provide educational opportunities. This is why much of Skoll's philanthropy is focused on education initiatives, including programs that provide education to underserved communities in developing countries, after-school programs in the United States, vocational training programs, programs to train educators, service learning, and innovative online tools. Skoll also recently backed the launch of the Skoll Center for Impact and Entertainment, at the UCLA school of Theater, Film, and Television.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Improving opportunities for individuals in extreme poverty is at the heart of the Skoll Foundation's giving. This mission has led to the support of a wide variety of social entrepreneurs and their organizations, and it includes a focus on education, microfinancing, providing Internet access in poor and rural areas, ending worker exploitation and child labor, boosting agricultural output for small farmers, and sustainable and environmentally friendly economic development. Most of these organizations focus on developing countries, and many of them also work on advocacy and policy issues that leverage additional government and private resources.
HEALTH: Social entrepreneurs supported by the Skoll Foundation have developed programs to address a variety of health issues, particularly in developing countries. One major area of focus has been developing clean, sustainable sources of drinking water and improving sanitation systems. Innovative programs that increase access to health services in poor and rural areas also have been a focus, as have the immunization of children and the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of AIDS and tuberculosis. Also supported by the Skoll Foundation is the first non-profit drug research and development organization in the United States, which concentrates on developing lifesaving medicine for neglected yet prevalent diseases.
HUMANITARIAN EFFORTS: The Skoll Foundation has helped champion a variety of humanitarian causes, including work to protect civilians from armed conflict, remove landmines from war-torn areas and rehabilitate land, fight human trafficking and the conscription of child soldiers, improve countries' legal systems and access to justice, and create popular support and pressure for a two state solution in Israel and Palestine. Skoll also financed The Gandhi Project in partnership with Relief International which created an Arabic version of the film Ghandi. They used Palestinian voice actors and artists to make the film particularly relevant to Palestinians.
SOCIAL CHANGE: Skoll founded Participant Media because he believes that "a story well-told has the power to ignite positive social change." In 2014, he launched the Center for Social Impact Entertainment at UCLA with a $10 Million donation.
LOOKING FORWARD: Many of the social entrepreneurs supported by Skoll and his foundation are seeking innovative solutions to major issues that span more than one cause or geographic area. So look for Skoll to provide increased support to organizations that merge two or more of the foundation's main areas of interest, such as improving health outcomes while simultaneously promoting environmental stewardship and economic development. Also likely is a continued focus on affecting policy outcomes mainly through the films of Participant Media.
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