NET WORTH: $33 billion
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Microsoft
FUNDING AREAS: Children & Families, Poverty, Education, Government Transparency
OVERVIEW: Steve and Connie Ballmer have been ramping up their philanthropy through the Ballmer Group, focusing on improving economic mobility for children and families in the United States, with special attention to the Pacific Northwest, Los Angeles County, and Detroit.
BACKGROUND: Ballmer was born in Detroit and grew up in Farmington Hills, Michigan, an affluent community north of Detroit. He attended Harvard, where he earned a degree in economics and mathematics, and met Bill Gates. Dropping out of Stanford Business School to work for Microsoft, he eventually succeeded Bill Gates as the CEO, running the company from 2000 until February 2014. In May 2014, he had the opportunity to purchase the LA Clippers basketball team for $2 billion, and officially became the Clippers' owner in August 2014.
Connie Snyder Ballmer attended the University of Oregon, graduating in 1984 with a B.S. in journalism. She married Steve in 1990. She has a long history working in the nonprofit world and addressing the needs of children and families.
CHILDREN & YOUTH: Through the Ballmer Group, Steve and Connie Ballmer have begun engaging in large-scale grantmaking to support “organizations and initiatives aimed at improving economic mobility for children and families in the United States.” The Ballmer Group states that it focuses its “giving on interventions designed for those who are disproportionately likely to remain in poverty.” It operates both nationally and regionally. Grants have flowed to anti-poverty groups in Los Angeles and the Pacific Northwest, as well to national organizations. The Ballmer Group also has a presence in Detroit.
In 2016, Steve and Connie Ballmer helped establish Blue Meridian Partners in with a $50 million donation. This is a collaborative effort of major funders dedicated to disadvantaged children and youth.
Connie Ballmer knows the challenges facing families and children well. After reading stories about kids lost in Washington's foster system, she played an instrumental role in founding a regional nonprofit, Partners for Our Children, in 2007. The Ballmers underwrote the group's creation with a $10 million donation and helped fund the Child Well-Being Portal, a website that displays interactive data visualization tools about Washington state's child welfare system. The group seeks to improve the child welfare system in Washington state through a partnership between government, academics, and the private sector.
EDUCATION: In November 2014, the couple gave $50 million to the University of Oregon, Connie's alma mater. Half of the funds were slated to fund a financial aid program for low-income students, with $20 million going to its anti-obesity program. That same month, the couple also gave an estimated $60 million to Harvard, Steve's alma mater, which was used to fund 12 new computer science professorships. The Ballmers contributed $11 million to the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship partnership to fund scholarships for low- and middle-income students pursuing degrees in STEM and health care. Between 2010 and 2015, the couple also gave $35 million to the University of Washington School of Social Work.
GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY: Ballmer created USAFacts, a "project to enable citizens to understand government in the U.S. by the numbers." The database reportedly cost about $10 million to build and employs researchers from the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), the Penn Wharton Budget Model, and Lynchburg College.
LOOKING FORWARD: Given their financial resources, the Ballmers could well rank among the top philanthropists in the U.S. over time—and certainly be among the deepest pocketed funders who are focused on poverty and economic mobility. It’s still early to know exactly how this large-scale giving will play out over time.
LINK: Ballmer Group