Dan and Jennifer Gilbert

NET WORTH: $5.8 billion


FUNDING AREAS: Health, Detroit and Cleveland Communities, Jewish Organizations

OVERVIEW: Dan Gilbert’s philanthropy is hard to trace because he does not appear to have a family foundation or other philanthropic vehicles that make it easy to track his giving. He is a signatory of the Giving Pledge, however, and appears to be directing the bulk of his philanthropy toward health-related causes, particularly genetic diseases, as well as community development in Detroit and Cleveland.

BACKGROUND: Dan Gilbert grew up in a Jewish family in the suburbs of Detroit. He attended Michigan State, where he received his bachelor’s, and then Wayne State, where he received a law degree. He is a member of the Michigan State Bar, though it was his work as a real estate agent that eventually led him to start a company that originated home mortgages, which eventually grew to one of the largest in the country. The company was purchased by Intuit in 2000, and renamed Quicken Loans, expanding to offer direct-to-consumer mortgages over the Internet. Gilbert stayed on as the company’s CEO and bought back the company along with a group of private investors two years later. Gilbert’s wealth from Quicken has also allowed him to expand into other areas such as real estate, with his company Rock Ventures, and professional sports, where he is the majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, as well as a number of other area sports teams.


HEALTH: Gilbert’s eldest son was born with neurofibromatosis, a genetic condition that carries with it a high risk of tumor formation, particularly in the brain, so it’s no surprise this cause is near and dear to his heart. In fact, he established two research clinics for the condition, one at the Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC) in Washington, D.C., and the other at the Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Israel. Additionally, he’s on the board of the Children’s Tumor Foundation, the Cleveland Clinic, and the Children’s Hospital Foundation (a CNMC affiliate), and his wife serves on the board of the Gilbert Family Neurofibromatosis Institute at CNMC. How much money exactly the couple has contributed to these organizations is hard to say, but it’s clearly tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars.

DETROIT & CLEVELAND COMMUNITIES: In their Giving Pledge letter, Dan and his wife Jennifer indicate that they intend to give much of their wealth back to the communities where the bulk of their family business is located, namely Detroit and Cleveland. Though the couple’s charitable contributions have thus far been hard to track, their businesses are certainly helping breathe new life into a struggling Detroit. In 2010, Gilbert moved the Quicken Loans headquarters from the suburbs to downtown Detroit, along with 1,700 employees. He’s also purchased a number of important buildings and employs 11,500 people throughout the city. On the non-profit side, he launched Bizdom in 2007, a non-profit academy that trains, mentors, and finances entrepreneurs in Detroit, and is also the vice chairman of the M-1 Rail initiative, which is dedicated to promoting light rail transportation in downtown Detroit.

JEWISH COMMUNITY: Gilbert’s wife Jennifer has been on the board of ORT, a non-profit Jewish organization that promotes education and training in skilled trades in communities worldwide. She also serves on the Israel and Overseas Committee for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.

LOOKING FORWARD: Gilbert is only in his 50s, so he’s got plenty of time to decide the best way to spend down his fortune. In their Giving Pledge letter, the Gilberts make mention of diseases “like neurofibromatosis,” suggesting that we may start seeing them give large sums to other rare diseases, particularly those that affect children. Other than that, it’s hard to say what causes might get the couple’s attention, though global development, entrepreneurship, skilled trade and employment programs, and green technology seem like distinct possibilities. Also look for the emergence of a family foundation or donor advised fund in the coming years to facilitate the their giving; with such a large and growing fortune, it’s actually astonishing that they don’t yet appear to have a more formalized method of handling their charitable contributions.


Joyce Keller

Philanthropic Advisor


1050 Woodward, Detroit, MI48226