NET WORTH: Unknown
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Cofounder of Lotus Development Corp.
FUNDING AREAS: Racial Equity and Social Justice, STEM Education, Environment.
OVERVIEW: Mitchell Kapor and his wife Freada Kapor Klein engage in philanthropy through the Kapor Center for Social Impact, which "relentlessly pursues creative strategies that will leverage information technology for positive social impact" and is particularly interested in underrepresented communities and "gap-closing endeavors." The couple announced in August 2015 that they would be spending $40 million to address the structural inequities that make it hard for African-Americans and other groups to become successful tech entrepreneurs. The Kapor Center was born out of the Mitchell Kapor Foundation. Currently the Center does not seek "unsolicited responsive grant requests."
BACKGROUND: Mitchell Kapor was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1950, and graduated from Freeport (Long Island) High School in 1967. He graduated with a B.A. from Yale in 1971, where he studied psychology, linguistics, and computer science as part of his interdisciplinary cybernetics major. Kapor went on to found Lotus Development Corp. in 1982 with Jonathan Sachs, and designed the spreadsheet program Lotus 1-2-3. Kapor is also a partner at Kapor Capital, a venture capital firm that invests in social impact tech companies.
Freada, meanwhile, has a bachelor's degree from Berkeley and a Ph.D. in social policy and research from Brandeis. Freada founded Level Playing Field Institute, which is "committed to eliminating the barriers faced by underrepresented people of color in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and fostering their untapped talent for the advancement of our nation.”
RACIAL EQUITY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE: Recent grantmaking through the Kapor Center for Social Justice has involved a long stream of outfits working for racial equity and social justice. These include: Causa Justa :: Just Cause (CJJC), a "multi-racial, grassroots organization building community leadership to achieve justice for low-income San Francisco and Oakland residents;" Center for Third World Organizing, "a training and resource center dedicated to building a social justice movement led by people of color;" Chicana Foundation of Northern California; Filipino Advocates for Justice; 100 Black Men of the Bay Area; NAACP; Chinese Progressive Organization; CEL Education Fund, whose mission is to "empower tech-savvy people-powered organizing initiatives;" and Advancement Project, a "next generation national civil rights organization."
Money has gone to policy outfits such as Brightline Defense Project, "a public policy advocacy non-profit committed to protecting and empowering vulnerable communities;" Center for Media Change; Ella Baker Center for Human Rights; Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies; and media outfits such as Democracy Now!
(STEM) EDUCATION: The Kapor Center for Social Impact seeks to "increase the number of underrepresented students of color who receive college degrees" and currently partners with College Bound Brotherhood, "a growing collaboration focused on increasing the college readiness, access, persistence, and completion of African American young men from the San Francisco Bay Area." The Kapor Center also partners with the Level Playing Field Institute, an outfit established by Freada in 2001 that's "committed to eliminating the barriers faced by underrepresented people of color in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and fostering their untapped talent for the advancement of our nation.” More than $1 million went to Level Playing Institute in the 2013 fiscal year alone. In 2015, the foundation made a $1.8 million grant to the Level the Playing Field Institute, making them their biggest single recipient, so expect giving to this organization at this level to continue.
The Kapor Center also provides an annual grant in support of Berkeley Science Network, which "aims to strengthen the pipeline of students of color in the science disciplines." Funds have also recently gone to outfits such as CodeNow, whose mission is to diversify the talent pipeline of students who pursue computer science and technology;" Black Girls CODE; and Management Leadership for Tomorrow, which "equips high-potential minorities with the winning playbook and personalized coaching that allows them to reach their full leadership potential." Money has also streamed to Marcus A. Foster Education Fund, "a compassionate, collaborative organization seeking to help realize transformative educational equity for the Oakland community;" as well as Ron Brown Scholarship Fund; UC Berkeley Foundation; W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research; and United Negro College Fund. Support has also gone to Wishbone for summer tech programs for underrepresented students.
ENVIRONMENT: Funds have gone to West Harlem Environmental Action, "an environmental justice organization focusing on sustainability, public health, pollution, and other urban quality of life issues;" and City Slicker Farms. Environmental issues have diminished in the big picture of the couple's overall grantmaking, but recent funds have still been earmarked for select environmental outfits.
LOOKING FORWARD: On the heels of the couple's $40 million commitment, Kapor said: "With this investment we’re doubling down on tech diversity because it’s good for individuals, communities and the economy as a whole.” Expect the couple's dedication to this area to hold.