A common pattern in philanthropy is that the wives of busy billionaires play a key role in figuring out how to give away all the money piling up. They are often the ones with more time on their hands and, in any case, are effectively co-owners of the wealth.
Michael Bloomberg, the extremely busy former Mayor of New York City—he's back at Bloomberg Media— doesn't have a wife, but he does have a long-time domestic partner, Diana Taylor. So what is her role in Bloomberg's large-scale philanthropy? He gave out $452 million in 2013, almost as much as the Ford Foundation. And what will be her role going forward as Bloomberg ramps up to give away even bigger chunks of his $31 billion fortune?
Neither of these questions are easy to answer. On the one hand, Diana Taylor clearly has the intellectual depth (Columbia MBA/MPH) and experience (high level jobs in government and finance) to play a major role in Bloomberg's philanthropy, and obviously has an interest in social issues, since she's been deeply involved in at least seven different nonprofits in recent years. (More on those in a moment.)
On the other hand, there's not much evidence that Diana Taylor actually does play a big role in Bloomberg's giving.
For starters, she's not the de facto co-owner of Bloomberg's assets like typical spouses. And she is anything but the idle partner with plenty of time on her hands to give away somebody else's money. She has a busy, high-powered career as a managing director at Wolfensohn Fund Management and all sorts of other involvements.
Also, Taylor is not on the board of the Bloomberg Family Foundation and she's rarely mentioned in connection with Bloomberg's philanthropy. Bloomberg already has plenty of well-placed advisors handling this side of his life, beginning with the other powerhouse woman at his side: Patricia Harris, the former deputy mayor who also is CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies. Harris has been working closely with Bloomberg since 1994 and has played a central role in developing his philanthropy.
Then there are Bloomberg's two daughters, Emma and Georgina, who also sit on the board of the foundation —along with a large group of other high powered board members, including Jeb Bush, Cory, Maya Lin, and Walter Issacson. No shortage of ideas for giving away money in that crowd, I'm betting.
Nor does it appear that the nonprofits that Diana Taylor has championed have gotten major philanthrophic support from Bloomberg. In fact, Bloomberg Philanthropies has made few if any recent gifts to these nonprofits that we could locate, which include the microfinance group ACCION International, AMFAR, Hudson River Park Trust, International Women's Health Coalition, the After School Corporation, and the YMCA of Greater New York.
Bloomberg has made some gifts to these groups that have not gone through the Bloomberg Family Foundation. For instance, he and his company have given to the After School Corporation, and his company has given to the YMCA.
Because some of Bloomberg's giving is not publicly reported, it is possible—perhaps likely—that he has made large gifts to organizations that Taylor champions that we do not know about.
Still, the picture we can see is this: Diana is deeply involved with both Michael Bloomberg and the nonprofit world, but it doesn't seem that she's actively pulling strings to determine which nonprofits get Mike's big money.
My guess is that more than a few fellow board members of organizations Diana Taylor is involved with have wondered when that big Bloomberg check was finally going to arrive. The answer may be "never."
Which is not to say that any smart nonprofit wouldn't die to have Diana Taylor as a board member. Forget about her boyfriend's money: This is one smart, savvy, and well-connected woman.