Rob Glaser


SOURCE OF WEALTH: Founder of RealNetworks

FUNDING AREAS: Independent Media, Health, Measuring Progress, Animal Rights

OVERVIEW: Glaser established the Glaser Progress Foundation in 1999, with a mission "to build a more just, sustainable and humane world." He is best known for his support of independent progressive media, but his foundation's core initiatives also include measuring progress, combating HIV/AIDS, and animal rights, though the animal rights initiative has temporarily been put on hold. Though he has made major contributions to a few groups, many of his donations fall in the $10,000-$25,000 range, allowing him to spread his generosity around. 

BACKGROUND: While it may be something of a cliché to claim that tech sector philanthropists have a greater tendency than most to want to change the world with their giving, in Rob Glaser's case, it's probably not much of a stretch. Long before he founded RealNetworks and changed the way we thought about sound and video on the Internet, his politics revealed something of a "social revolutionary" side.

Glaser's parents were liberal activists back in the day, and that liberal activism seems to run in the family. While Rob Glaser was at Yale, he wrote a political column for the school newspaper entitled "What's Left" and ran a group called the Campaign Against Militarism and the Draft. Even RealNetworks, which eventually changed the way we think about audio and video media on the Internet, started out as something he called Progressive Networks, which he cofounded to provide liberal-oriented programming for the World Wide Web.

Glaser's still serves as CEO of RealNetworks, after rumblings of a replacement. Regardless, Glaser is still trying to change the way people see the world, whether it's through an Internet audio and video player, or through his philanthropy. 


PROGRESSIVE MEDIA: Working alongside the Center for American Progress, the Glaser Progress Foundation has created a Progressive Studies Program that aims to increase public awareness through education about progressive ideas and values. Glaser has also been a major supporter of Democracy Now!, which started as a left-leaning individual radio program, and has developed into a full-fledged television network, regularly made substantial contributions to the American Civil Liberties Union, and funded independent media centers that operate all around the world. Recently the foundation has donated over $100,000 towards Media Matters for America.

HEALTH: Along with Columbia University and Jeffrey Sachs, Glaser and his foundation created and provided most of the funding for the Global Fund Project, a multibillion-dollar international financing mechanism to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in developing countries.

Along similar lines, the Glaser Progress Foundation has also worked with the Yale School of Public Health to form the Global Health Leadership Institute, which hopes to improve the health of regional populations by researching best practices and top leaders. 

ANIMAL RIGHTS: The Glaser Progress Foundation is deeply involved with animal advocacy, although its grantmaking in this area has been put old hold for the past couple of years while it reexamines its program and decides where it wants to focus its resources. In the past, it has given grants to animal rights groups that focus on factory farming, vegetarianism, and saving the great apes, as well as animal shelters and rescues, but that may end up changing. The foundation does anticipate restoring its grantmaking in this area, though the specific focus and timeline are currently uncertain. 

MEASURING PROGRESS: The Glaser Progress Foundation also puts resources toward how we measure progress as a society, attempting to combat the notion that progress is measured solely by our economic output, and striving to create a system that account for nonmarket activity. To this end, the Foundation has worked with the University of Washington Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs to examine the concept of progress and its relationship to public decision making, and with Yale economist William Nordhaus on the Program on Nonmarket Accounts (PNA), a ten-year program which aims to build a comprehensive system to measure progress that fully accounts for nonmarket activity, and includes measurements of things such as pollution and forestry.

They have also awarded Sightline Institute a two-year $100,000 grant to support the development of a regional sustainability index for the Pacific Northwest.