The Spirit Of Giving: A Dozen Who've Made A Difference

Giving Back

The technology industry isn't always focused on profit. A number of IT entrepreneurs and CEOs have given a portion of their wealth to a variety of charities. Continue on to see 12 of those who have developed a reputation for the philanthropic.

For a closer look at the charitable efforts of technology vendors, see a preview of CRN's special report on how companies give back, available exclusively on the CRN Tech News app starting Monday.

Bill Gates, Microsoft Co-Founder, Chairman

Easily the biggest philanthropist in the IT industry, Gates topped Forbes' "World's Biggest Givers" list this year. Microsoft's co-founder, with a net worth of $66 billion, has donated $28 billion so far, according to Forbes. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supports a variety of health, educational and agricultural efforts in 100 countries, including $112 million to Save the Children for saving newborns and $456 million for a malaria vaccine initiative.

With renowned investor Warren Buffett, Gates and his wife, Melinda, launched the Giving Pledge in 2010. Ninety-three billionaire families have signed the pledge, committing to give the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes.

Paul Allen, Microsoft Co-Founder

Allen -- with a net worth of $15 billion according to Forbes -- has donated more than $1.5 billion through the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and direct contributions, including $26 million to Washington State University for its School of Global Animal Health.

He also established the Allen Institute for Brain Science with a donation of $500 million. The nonprofit focuses on advancing understanding of the human brain in health and disease.

In signing the Giving Pledge, Allen wrote, "My philanthropic efforts will continue after my lifetime. I’ve planned for many years now that the majority of my estate will be left to philanthropy."

Marc Benioff, Chairman, CEO

Benioff made philanthropy core to's operations when he founded the cloud computing company 13 years ago, committing 1 percent equity, 1 percent profit in product donations, and 1e percent of employees' time into a 501(c)(3) public charity.

To date, the company has given 360,000 hours of community service, provided its product for free or at steep discounts to more than 16,000 nonprofits and given $40 million in grants to support a variety of organizations such as the United Way.

Personally, Benioff and his wife, Lynne, have donated $100 million to building a new children's hospital with the University of California San Francisco. The couple also has donated more than $1.5 million to help house homeless families.

Steve Case, America Online Co-Founder

In 1997, Case and his wife, Jean, created the Case Foundation, which promotes "citizen-centered philanthropy" with projects such as America's Giving Challenge, an online competition for people to become involved in charitable work. In addition to serving as chairman of the foundation, Case is chairman of a nonprofit dedicated to funding brain cancer research and served as the vice chair of the Committee to Encourage Corporate Philanthropy.

The Cases are among the billionaires who have signed the Giving Pledge, committing to give the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes. "We share the view that those to whom much is given, much is expected. We realize we have been given a unique platform and opportunity, and we are committed to doing the best we can with it," the couple wrote in their pledge letter.

Michael Dell, Dell Founder, CEO

In 1999, Dell and his wife, Susan, established a foundation in their name and focused on helping improve the health and education of poor urban children around the world. According to Forbes, Dell -- with a net worth of $14.6 billion -- has donated $1.2 billion.

In 2008, during the depths of the financial crisis, the Dell Foundation made a series of $25,000 donations to high-performing nonprofits without putting them through a lot of red tape, said Bradford Smith, president of the Foundation Center. "They said, 'You're the front-line community service providers and the country and communities need you now more than ever, so here, go do your work.' That was really kind of a wonderful thing to do," Smith said.

Pierre Omidyar, eBay Founder

The eBay founder and his wife, Pam, have brought a particularly entrepreneurial spirit to their philanthropy, making both for-profit investments and providing grants to support a variety of efforts. The couple has committed more than $1 billion to philanthropic efforts, including more than $150 million to for-profit companies and more than $850 million to nonprofit organizations.

In 2004, they founded the Omidyar Network, which supports both for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations that foster economic and social improvement. The organization's mission is "to harness the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives." Since its inception, the Omidyar Network has committed $545 million to various projects.

The Omidyars were among the initial signers of the Giving Pledge.

Jeff Skoll, eBay President, First Employee

After becoming a billionaire at eBay, Skoll founded the Skoll Foundation in 1999, which focuses on "social entrepreneurship" to tackle problems around the world. The foundation has awarded more than $342 million over the past 12 years and funds a $20 million portfolio of program-related investments. Skoll also founded Participant Media, which seeks to inspire social change. Participant's films include "Syriana" and "An Inconvenient Truth."

In 2009, Skoll founded the Skoll Global Threats Fund, which focuses on climate change, water scarcity, pandemics, nuclear proliferation and Middle East conflict.

According to Forbes, Skoll -- with a net worth of $3.3 billion -- has donated $1.1 billion. Skoll was among the Giving Pledge's first signers.

Gordon Moore, Intel Co-Founder

The legendary co-founder of Intel is famous for Moore's Law -- his 1965 prediction that the number of transistors on a computer chip would double every year (later revised to every two years). But he's also a leader in tech philanthropy. In 2000, he and his wife established the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation with the donation of half of his Intel stock (about $55 billion, according to Forbes). The foundation supports environmental conservation, scientific research and patient care with an annual grant budget of about $250 million.

Gordon and Betty Moore signed the Giving Pledge in June.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Chairman, CEO

In September 2010, Zuckerberg donated $100 million to improve the troubled public school system in Newark, N.J. Three months later, the 28-year-old billionaire committed to giving most of his wealth to charity by signing the Giving Pledge.

"People wait until late in their career to give back. But why wait when there is so much to be done?" Zuckerberg said in a press release at the time of his pledge signing. "With a generation of younger folks who have thrived on the success of their companies, there is a big opportunity for many of us to give back earlier in our lifetime and see the impact of our philanthropic efforts."

David Duffield, PeopleSoft Founder; Co-Founder SaaS Workday

The founder of PeopleSoft and co-founder of SaaS Workday has made animal welfare a major focus of his philanthropy. Through the Duffield Family Foundation, he and his wife, Cheryl, have given millions to Maddie's Fund, named after their beloved pet schnauzer. According to Forbes, the couple has given more than $290 million to Maddie's Fund, which works to build a "no-kill nation" so that healthy shelter cats and dogs get homes.

Duffield also is the benefactor behind Cornell's Duffield Hall, a nanoscale science and engineering center built in 2004. After Oracle's hostile acquisition of PeopleSoft in 2005, Duffield set up a fund with $10 million of his own money to support former PeopleSoft employees adversely impacted by the acquisition, according to Forbes.

Henry Samueli, Broadcom Co-founder, Chairman

Samueli and his wife formed their family foundation in 1993, when semiconductor supplier Broadcom when public. The foundation focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, integrative medicine, and promoting Jewish culture.

The University of California at Los Angeles' Daily Bruin reported that the couple has donated more than $285 million to various organizations over the past 13 years. UCLA is Samueli's alma mater.

The Samuelis signed the Giving Pledge a year ago.

Klaus Tschira, SAP Co-Founder

One of the five former IBM employees who founded SAP 40 years ago, Tschira went on to found the Klaus Tschira Foundation. Based in Germany, the organization focuses on funding science, mathematics and computer science education. According to Forbes, Tschira's net worth is $2.9 billion and he's donated $1.1 billion.