Last week, when we talked to Paul G. Allen Family Foundation co-manager Dune Ives about Allen's $100 million commitment to fighting Ebola, one of the things we discussed was other tech philanthropists supporting the cause. Among the names Ives mentioned was that of Google cofounder and CEO Larry Page.
So this week we weren't suprised when Page joined the growing number of funders opening their checkbooks to combat Ebola, pledging $15 million from his family foundation, the Carl Victor Page Memorial Foundation, and another $10 million from Google. Recipients include a number of the usual suspects, such as UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, and Partners in Health, as well as NetHope, InSTEDD, the International Rescue Committee, Save the Children, and other organizations on the ground in the affected areas.
Additionally, Google has partnered with the Network for Good to create a fundraising campaign, with half the $10 million pledge being used as a matching gift. That strikes us as money well spent, because it promises to leverage bigger bucks to confront Ebola. We said the same thing about a $1 million grant by the Caterpillar Foundation to the ONE Campaign for its Ebola advocacy work.
In light of Page’s pledge, we wanted to take the opportunity to dig deeper into his philanthropy, and see what else he’s up to.
Back in March, we put out a list of the most and least generous tech leaders, and Page fell squarely onto the list of least generous, famously saying that he thinks he could do more good by giving his money to someone like Elon Musk instead of donating it to charity.
Not that Page doesn’t have charity on his mind. While we don’t have the latest figures available, SEC filings suggest that his foundation is now holding at least $700 million in assets, two thirds of which was transferred in the last several years. He’s also pushed roughly $70 million out the door between 2007, when his foundation’s operations began in earnest, and 2012, the last year we currently have on record. Still, that's just a drop in the bucket considering that Page is worth more than $30 billion.
The bigger problem, however, is that it's almost impossible to say what Page is using that money to support, or if most of it has even found its way to charitable causes, since nearly all of that $70 million in giving—more than $63 million of it—has disappeared into donor-advised funds at places like the Vanguard Charitable Endowment and the National Philanthropic Trust.
This has made getting a handle on Page’s giving extremely difficult. He may just be piling up cash for the future, when he has more time (and interest) to focus on philanthropy. Or he may prefer to do his giving in secrecy, as many donors do.
That said, a close look at Page's giving and involvements provides a sense of where his priorities lie and where things may be headed.
For starters, he’s on the board of the X-Prize Foundation, which organizes large-scale competitions in education, global development, energy and environment, life sciences, and exploration. We’re not sure how much Page has personally donated to the organization, but Google has put up at least $30 million, and Page has helped raised millions by hosting fundraising events.
The Ebola donation isn’t Page’s first attempt at tackling health issues, either. In 2012, he and his wife, Lucinda Southworth, started covering flu shots for every kid age four to 18 in the San Francisco Bay Area, and are continuing that work by funding a program called Shoo the Flu, which offers free flu shots to children at Oakland schools. Page has also made token donations to places like the American Cancer Society, and recently took the Ice Bucket Challenge, and donated to fight ALS.
Education and the environment seem like they could emerge as two areas of focus as well. The largest donation made by the Carl Victor Page Memorial Foundation that didn’t go to a donor-advised fund went to the Edible Schoolyard Project, and smaller donations have been made to Scholarship America, the National Resources Defense Council, and several universities, including Stanford and Texas.
Page has also been known to support organizations that provide services for refugees, orphans, and at-risk youth, and animal welfare organizations.
At just 41, Larry Page still has plenty of time to leave his legacy and has his hands full with quite a day job. And maybe the reason we’ve seen relatively little philanthropy from him personally is that he’s currently more engaged with Google's giving.
Going beyond Google’s motto of “Don’t Be Evil,” the company is giving away $100 million in grants and $1 billion in products annually under Page’s watch, and in 2013, started the Google Impact Challenge, rewarding non-profits across the globe that are using technology to tackle a variety issues, including education, the environment, global development, and empowering women and girls. As we've reported here, Google has also become a major funder of academic research projects.