If you’ve ever planned a trip to Europe or if you watch much public television, then you’re probably already familiar with Rick Steves. He’s a leading authority on European travel, having written many travel guides, and hosted a public radio show and a television series. But while many people find his travel tips and itineraries useful, it turns out that Steves is making a contribution in another area: the world of philanthropy.
Rick Steves has strong ties to the state of Washington. He grew up there and attended the University of Washington in his youth. His hometown is Edmonds, just north of Seattle, and his company headquarters is there, too. He is also well connected throughout the Pacific Northwest, especially considering that his long-running Rick Steves’ Europe is an Oregon Public Broadcasting series.
But in spite of Steves’ well-traveled life and passion for Europe, he keeps his philanthropic endeavors close to home. This past spring, Steves made the local news for donating an apartment complex in Everett that he originally bought as an investment property. He gave it to the local YWCA. Instead of making money from the rent and interest, Steves allowed the YWCA to help families at risk of becoming homeless.
We’ve written a lot at IP about the housing and homelessness crisis in the Bay Area of California. But things up north in Washington aren’t a whole lot better. With President Trump proposing more cuts for social services and the tech sector continuing to grow, affordable housing in the Pacific Northwest is emerging as a top cause for local funders.
For over a decade, Steves worked with the YWCA Seattle King Snohomish and the Edmonds Rotary to operate the housing complex for families in need. But more recently, he donated it outright to the YWCA. In announcing the gift, he referenced the rise of the “greed is good ethic” in the American government with regard to the timing of his donation. “If you can learn how to consume vicariously, you can be happier by your wealth,” Steves has said.
Steves is no stranger to speaking out against government policies, either. He’s a Democrat who endorsed Hillary Clinton and advocates legalizing marijuana. In fact, he has served on the Advisory Board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and New Approach Washington to regulate legal marijuana in Washington State. He’s very interested in supporting solutions to hunger and homelessness, but he has also given big gifts to the arts. Recipients include the Edmonds Center for the Arts and the Cascade Symphony Orchestra.
Steves doesn’t have a formal foundation to channel his philanthropic giving, but the 62 year old certainly seems to be dabbling in social issues just about as much as travel, lately. This is good news for nonprofits in the Pacific Northwest, especially ones involved with regional homelessness. Steves’ net worth has been estimated at around $10 million.