Michael and Susan Dell

NET WORTH: $23.1  billion

SOURCE OF WEALTH: Founder and CEO of Dell Computers

FUNDING AREAS: Education, health, family economic stability, Texas community

OVERVIEW: Michael and his wife Susan created the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation (MSDF) in 1999, with a focus on underprivileged children, especially with regard to health and educational opportunities. The foundation, which is chaired by Susan, awards more than $100 million in grants annually.

BACKGROUND: Michael Dell got his start in computers at the age of 15, when he took apart an Apple II and reassembled it. Dell spent a brief time at the University of Texas before dropping out in order to build computers in his garage, and eventually turn his company into one of the largest computer hardware manufacturers in the country. He married Susan Lieberman in October of 1989. Susan is considered an elite athlete, running marathons and competing in triathlons and cycling competitions. She also served on the President's Council for Physical Fitness and Sports and various nonprofit boards. 

PHILOSOPHY: The couple's s approach to philanthropy is to "tackle the problem that presents the biggest opportunity." The foundation's website describes their approach thusly: "We start by identifying the people and places most in need and then work closely with our partners to find solutions that combine bold thinking with real-world experiences and hard data. We firmly believe that true progress and transformative, sustainable change is the product of time, hard work, and a willingness to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those who live and breathe the challenges we aim to overcome." They tends to take a holistic approach to philanthropy, studying an issue from a variety of angles and creating strong partnerships with the organizations that do the charitable work directly.

ISSUES

EDUCATION: The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation supports efforts to improve urban education both in the United States and abroad. This funding takes various forms, but a key through-line is a focus “on growing programs that focus on enabling data-driven education and access to high-quality public schools.”

Dell Scholars Program provides mentoring and financial assistance to help underprivileged kids get into and complete college. The foundation also provides funding for a number of education programs in both charter and public schools, including tutoring and out-of-school programs. In 2011, MSDF launched a nonprofit subsidiary called the Ed-Fi Alliance, which offers educators and administrators real-time, actionable education data on every student in their classroom, school, district, or state. According to its website, "We believe that meaningful data provided to educators in districts, schools, and classrooms plays a critical role in empowering educators to make better decisions about how to operate their schools, districts, and customize instruction for the benefit of each student."

HEALTH: The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation has focused on childhood health since its inception. From the website: "Today, one of the cornerstones of our health and wellness portfolio is our place-based (integrated initiatives and partnerships in a specific geographic area) work."  It also helped fund the Texas Center for Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Obesity, and supported HBO's Weight of the Nation documentary, and gives a large measure of support to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and programs to provide medical research and health insurance to children. Dell has made a $50 million donation to establish the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin, and it has committed another $1 million annually to improve Austin and Travis County community health quality and access programs. The Dells have also given $25 million to the Seton Healthcare Family to fund a teaching hospital, which opened in May 2017

GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT: The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation is involved in developing and improving education, employment initiatives and family economic stability in South Africa and India. To further these efforts, the foundation "partner[s] with a range of stakeholders, including governments, social entrepreneurs, NGOs, implementation experts, community organizations and other philanthropies."

AUSTIN AND TEXAS COMMUNITY: Though they have broadened their scope, the couple's early efforts at philanthropy were mainly focused on Greater Austin, which can be seen in the buildings all over the area that bear the Dell  name.  

Given Dell's background, the foundation naturally awards tech- and science-related grants, giving millions in grants to help fund Texas science, technology, engineering, and math (T-STEM) Academies and Centers. The purpose of Dell's T-STEM grantmaking is to fund programs that will share best practices through the T-STEM Network and give schools access to professional development, curricula, and lesson plans. In addition, the foundation provides funding to groups that fight child abuse and those that provide child care assistance to families.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the couple launched the Rebuild Texas Fund in September 2017, with a stated $100 million fundraising goal—$36 million of which they pledged to donate themselves.

CONTACT:

Michael & Susan Dell Foundation
PO Box 163867
Austin, TX 78716
Fax: (512) 600-5501
Email: info@msdf.org

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