NET WORTH: $48.2 billion
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Innovative Market Systems, Bloomberg L.P.
FUNDING AREAS: Health, Education, Environment, Arts, Government Innovation
OVERVIEW: Michael Bloomberg is consistently listed among the world’s most generous philanthropists, and has pledged to devote the entirety of his fortune to philanthropic causes. He has been a leader on a variety of issues, from climate change to tobacco, obesity, immigration, and education.
BACKGROUND: Michael Bloomberg attended Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Business School before going to work on Wall St. at Salomon Brothers. He was given a $10 million severance package when Salomon was bought by George Soros’ Travelers Group. He then founded Innovative Market Systems, which delivered high-quality business information for investors. This was the start of Bloomberg’s empire, which was eventually renamed Bloomberg L.P. In 2001, Bloomberg mounted a successful campaign for Mayor of New York City, where he has served 3 terms, and will finish his tenure at the end of 2013.
EDUCATION: Bloomberg’s largest donation to any single organization has been to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins, and comes in at over $1 billion. He has partnered with America Achieves to create a series of fellowship programs for educational leaders, and is a major player in affecting education policies, working with key players on Race to the Top and the development of the Common Core State Standards. He has also been instrumental in funding a program at 100 U.S. high schools to compare performance with other countries through the PISA test, which is the first real direct comparison of how the U.S. educational system is faring against other countries.
HEALTH: A significant portion of the $1 billion Bloomberg has given to Johns Hopkins has been to create the Bloomberg School of Public Health. He has been a major proponent of tobacco control, contributing more than $165 million to the World Lung Foundation, and $10 million to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, as well as $9.3 million in support of the Centers for Disease Control and $7.7 million to the World Health Organization, at least in part to support reducing tobacco use and fighting tobacco-related health problems. Bloomberg has also partnered with the Gates Foundation, pledging $16.2 million to health-related collaborations, and has invested roughly $12 billion in providing life-saving maternal health care in Tanzania.
Road safety in developing countries is also counted among Bloomberg’s health programs, and he is of course known for his work in obesity prevention as well. Perhaps most well-known is his controversial to limit the size of sugary drinks sold at fast food restaurants in New York City, but through his charitable work, he is also working on obesity prevention in Mexico. From banning junk food and sugary beverage advertising to kids, to raising taxes on sugary beverages, promoting healthy public-sector food policies, introducing front-of-package nutrition labels, developing advertising and awareness campaigns, and funding research into the effectiveness of various policies, Bloomberg is working to tackle the obesity epidemic on a number of different fronts. On an international front, Bloomberg Philanthropies has also teamed up with the Australian government in backing a $100 million initiative, Data for Health, in order to more effectively research causes of death around the world.
ENVIRONMENT: Bloomberg has spearheaded two major climate initiatives. The first, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, where he has served as chair since 2010, is a coalition of 70 of the world’s largest cities whose goal is to create and implement policies and programs that produce measurable reductions in greenhouse gases, and are both scalable and replicable. From more eco-friendly transportation to green buildings to landfill reduction, the C40 group has made significant progress on climate change, and have been able to accelerate progress in this area more quickly than state or national governments.
The second is a partnership with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. Bloomberg has made a $50 million commitment to help retire one third of the nation’s aging coal fleet by 2020, recently adding another $30 million to his initial donation. The initiative also seeks to accelerate the move to cleaner energy sources, emphasizing accountability and outcome-driven performance metrics, and encouraging action at the local and state level. Other major gifts include $6.5 million to EMBARQ, which has helped catalyze and implement sustainable transportation solutions in more than half a dozen countries.
ARTS: Bloomberg’s Arts Advancement Initiative has committed $34 million so far to provide operating support to arts and cultural organizations in New York City. The program has made grants to nearly 250 small and medium sized theater, visual arts, music, film, literature, and dance organizations, and also offers organizational development and management programs. Working with the organizations to meet developmental milestones such as broadening their donor base, securing matching grants, board development, and social media and marketing development, the initiative emphasizes tracking performance using rigorous metrics. The initiative's title was recently changed to Arts Innovation and Management, and Bloomberg has doubled down, putting up another $30 million for the program over the next two years.
HUMANITARIAN: In general humanitarian aid, Bloomberg has donated more than $3.7 million to the Red Cross, and to Women for Women International.
COMMUNITY BUILDING: Bloomberg has donated amounts ranging from roughly half a million to a million and a half to either major community foundations or the cities themselves in places like Atlanta, Chicago, Louisville, New Orleans, and Memphis, and $6.6 million for the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. He has also contributed $5.4 million to Living Cities, helping to shape federal funding programs and redirect public and private resources, which helps communities build homes, stores, schools, community facilities and more, and has supported other organizations like Cities of Service. Bloomberg has also launched the third Mayor's Challenge, to which he has donated $9 million in prize money.
LOOKING FORWARD: Despite promising to dedicate his life to philanthropy after leaving office, Bloomberg returned to the helm of Bloomberg LP. For now, then, a good portion of his time will be spent doing business. A gubernatorial or presidential run also might be down the pike. Nonetheless, Bloomberg's philanthropy is still very much in play. He's said he’ll continue working with C40, likely helping to bring more cities on board, and there are many other cities that will likely be under consideration for innovative development funds as well. Also look for more funding in alternative energy, and expansions to many of his existing programs.