Joe and Marlene Ricketts

NET WORTH: $2.7 billion


FUNDING AREAS: Education & Youth, Conservation, Arts & Culture, Religious, Fiscal Policy

OVERVIEW: Joe Ricketts and family conduct their philanthropy through several vehicles, including the Ricketts Conservation Foundation and the Opportunity Education Foundation, which focuses on education in developing nations. 

BACKGROUND: A Nebraska native, Joe Ricketts graduated from Creighton University with a B.A. in economics in 1968. He began his career as an investment advisor with Ricketts & Co., became a registered representative with Dean Witter, and later a branch manager at Dun & Bradstreet. In 1975, he co-founded First Omaha Securities. The company evolved into TD Ameritrade, which today manages hundreds of billions of dollars in client assets. Ricketts was CEO of Ameritrade Holding Corp. from 1982 to 2001 and chairman from 1982 to 2008. Ricketts now lives in Little Jackson Hole, Wyoming. 


EDUCATION & YOUTH: In 2005, Ricketts founded Opportunity Education Foundation, which is dedicated to making quality education accessible to children in developing nations so they can improve their standard of living and work towards a brighter future. The foundation provides everything from learning materials and curricula to televisions and teachers' guides. Through its Sister School Program, Opportunity Education "connects teachers and students around the world, encouraging cultural awareness throughout the global community." Opportunity Education has helped 500,000 students at nearly 1,000 schools in 11 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

CONSERVATION: When the Ricketts moved to Wyoming, they became interested in protecting the nation's natural spaces. Joe has contributed to Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, and the Wyoming Wetlands Society. In 2013, he founded The Ricketts Conservation Foundation to "support the conservation of wildlife and wilderness areas, and to promote the importance of environmental stewardship as an enduring value." The foundation's inaugural project is a five-year, $6.5 million study aimed at restoring the Common Loon to its former habitats in the Western, Midwestern, and Northeastern United States.

ARTS & CULTURE: Ricketts founded The Ricketts Art Foundation to enrich people’s lives by providing "innovative access to the works of important visual, performing, and literary artists, both current and past." The foundation partnered with The Buffalo Bill Center of the West and the Museum of Mountain Man to create The Alfred Jacob Miller Online Catalogue.

RELIGIOUS: In 2014, Joe founded The Cloisters on the Platte, a spiritual weekend retreat open to men and women of all faiths.

FISCAL POLICY:  In 2010, Ricketts founded non-partisan advocacy organization Taxpayers Against Earmarks—later renamed Ending Spending—which helped bring about a ban on Congressional earmarking. Ending Spending's website connects "engaged citizens with their elected officials to bring about its goals of smarter spending decisions and a smaller federal government."

Ricketts also founded the Ending Spending Action Fund, which "independently advocates for the election or defeat of candidates on the basis of a particular candidate's position on fiscal issues, regardless of party affiliation."

LOOKING FORWARD: Expect Ricketts' steady and robust giving to continue.


Joe Ricketts Website

Opportunity Education Foundation

Ricketts Conservation Foundation