NET WORTH: $4.9 billion
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Tech venture capitalism with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; founder of CAD software company Silicon Compliers; founder of @Home, a broadband Internet company
FUNDING AREAS: Education, environment, health care, and global poverty
OVERVIEW: Doerr takes a venture capitalist approach to philanthropy that reflects his approach to his career. He has signed the Giving Pledge and plans to donate most of his fortune to charity. Doerr is particularly interested in education, the environment, but most of his donation has gone to education.
BACKGROUND: John Doerr,'s guidance has been considered key to the success of companies such as Google, Compaq, Amazon, and Sun Microsystems.
PHILOSOPHY: Doerr was one of the first philanthropists to use what he calls a "venture philanthropy" approach to his giving. This approach has been enormously influential in the field of education. Doerr, along with his wife, Ann, looks at philanthropic endeavors through very much the same lens as Doerr views his venture capital enterprises: Either do it right, or don't do it at all. As Doerr himself has said, "Do not just strive to be successful but achieve a great measure of success and significance." With that spirit in mind, the Doerrs have joined the Giving Pledge, which is a commitment by those who sign it to give most of their wealth to charity.
EDUCATION: Although he spends much of his time listening to budding tech entrepreneurs pitch their ideas for the next big commercial technology, Doerr also sits on the board of NewSchools Venture Fund, which he cofounded. It's not so much the NewSchools Venture Fund fundraising model that is so unique, it's that he also uses a venture capital-like model to distribute the money by supporting entrepreneurs who are trying to change the way public education operates. Those who have great ideas for improving schools can get start-up money or an infusion of cash to speed up the process of building their companies. Thus far, NewSchools Venture Funding has given at least "$180 million in more than 70 nonprofit and for-profit educational organizations working to promote student achievement." The results are most pronounced in California, where the Fund has facilitated rapid growth in charter schools, especially in underserved neighborhoods. The fund also has been active in lobbying the California legislature to provide more money to fund public school facilities, and thus far has gotten commitments from the state for at least $20 billion in extra funds.
John and Ann Doerr also serve as president and vice president, respectively, of the Benificus Foundation, through which they have given millions of dollars to educational institutions nationwide. For example, the Doerrs recenty gave their alma mater, Rice University, $50 million to establish the Doerr Institute for New Leaders, and several years prior gave $15 million through the foundation to establish the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership. The couple has also been supportive of University of San Francisco, giving $1 million annually over the last few years.
- Barbara S. Hager, CEO/CFO, Benificus Foundation, 751 Laurel Street, #717 San Carlos, CA 94070, 650-384-0240