David Gelbaum


SOURCE of WEALTH: Environmental Technology Investments

FUNDING AREAS: Environment, Veterans, Civil Rights, Education

OVERVIEW: Gelbaum was identified as one of the three “anonymous” donors behind the Wellspring Philanthropic Fund. While he is a Giving Pledge signatory, Gelbaum is said to be "done with philanthropy,” having given away or lost much of his fortune.

BACKGROUND: Gelbaum studied at several colleges in California before graduating from the University of California at Irvine with a degree in mathematics. He worked for several investment firms and made his fortune using quantitative modeling for stock price returns and derivative securities. He founded Quercus Trust to handle his investments. Since 2002, has put about $500 million into companies that promote a green economy, including renewable energy, smart electric grids, sustainable agriculture and electric cars. Most of his time is currently spent as CEO and Chairman of the Board of Entech Solar, a company he co-founded with Mark O'Neill.


ENVIRONMENT: David is a co-founder of the Wildlands Conservancy, a land trust that “is dedicated to preserving the beauty and biodiversity of the earth and to providing programs so that children may know the wonder and joy of nature.” Through the conservancy, Gelbaum has directed about $250 million toward the acquisition and preservation 1,200 square miles of land in California. Gelbaum has also given about $200 million to the Sierra Club, the largest grassroots environmental organization in the U.S.

VETERANS: Gelbaum has a deep respect for the sacrifices made by those who serve in our military, and has recognized that “the transition from military service back to civilian life is a gaping hole through which some of our best, brightest, and most highly-trained are falling.” To support veterans with this transition, Gelbaum founded the Iraq Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund, which made more than $243 million in grants to 53 non-profits from 2006 to 2010, but is not currently making new grants.

CIVIL RIGHTS: Gelbaum has given $93 million to the American Civil Liberties Union and has supported the NAACP.

EDUCATION: Gelbaum has supported the Save Our Youth Center in Costa Mesa, California. The organization aims to “provide a safe and welcoming space for teens to find hope, to nourish a sense of self and an ability to grow, and to develop interests and skills to become productive members of society.”

LOOKING FORWARD: While Gelbaum is not actively involved in philanthropy at the present time, he may become active again in the coming years.