Michael Dell

NET WORTH: $19.3 billion

SOURCE OF WEALTH: Founder and CEO of Dell Computers

FUNDING AREAS: Education, health, and family economic stability

OVERVIEW: Michael and his wife Susan created the Michael & Susan Dell foundation in 1999, with a focus on underprivileged children, especially with regard to health and educational opportunities. The foundation awards more than $100 million in grants annually to hundreds of causes and projects out of its three main grantmaking programs: Urban Education, Childhood Health, and Family Economic Stability.

BACKGROUND: Michael Dell got his start 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. 

PHILOSOPHY: Dell's approach to philanthropy is to "tackle the problem that presents the biggest opportunity." He tends to take a holistic approach to his philanthropy, studying an issue from a variety of angles and creating strong partnerships with the organizations that do the charitable work directly. 


EDUCATION: On the education front, the 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 assistance programs in both charter and public schools, including tutoring and out-of-school programs. Additionally, Dell has partnered with such groups as Teach for America, which seeks to support teachers in urban and rural areas, and the Knowledge Is Power Program, or KIPP, a non-profit network of college prep charter schools.

More recently, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation launched a non-profit 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. It is hoped that the data will help teachers and administrators assess the individual needs of each student, so as to measure progress and refine action plans accordingly.

HEALTH: The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation has partnered with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to fight childhood obesity, while also donating to programs like CATCH and the Sustainable Food Center. It even helped fund the Texas Center for Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Obesity, and supported HBO's Weight of the Nation documentary. The foundation also 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 for at least the next 10 years. Dell has also given $25 million to the Seaton Healthcare Family to further fund a teaching hospital.

GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT: The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation also is very active in global development, with work that's included funding for microfinance and water-sanitation programs in India such as IntelleGrow, and for children's programs that help orphans and vulnerable children in South Africa. The foundation has been increasingly involved in impact investing to advance its goals overseas. 

AUSTIN COMMUNITY: Though he has broadened his scope in recent years, Dell's early efforts at philanthropy were mainly focused on Greater Austin, which can be seen in the buildings all over the area that bear his 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.


  • Janet Mountain, Executive Director, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, 512-329-0799