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Philanthropy’s Most Formidable Females

Melinda Gates
Melinda Gates IMG: JStone / Shutterstock.com

Inside Philanthropy recently released its list of the 15 Most Powerful Women in U.S. Philanthropy, a roster of some of the most formidable female leaders in America. You already know that women are just as innovative and influential in the realm of philanthropy as their male counterparts, right? Even still, it’s always great to be reminded that just because they’re not necessarily making headlines as often, the following women are changing our world for the better.

The list of the 15 most powerful women in U.S. philanthropy is as follows:

  1. Melinda Gates
  2. Susan Buffett
  3. Patricia Harris
  4. Marilyn Simons
  5. Susan Dell
  6. Pam Omidyar
  7. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey
  8. Jennifer Buffett
  9. Carol Larsen
  10. Laurene Powell Jobs
  11. Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen
  12. Laura Arnold
  13. Priscilla Chan
  14. Margaret Cargill
  15. Cathy Catalyst

According to David Callahan, who spearheaded the formation of this list, “Women are a fast-rising force in philanthropy. More women are making their own fortunes than ever before and women are also exercising growing leadership in family philanthropy, shaping how wealth made by spouses or earlier generations is given away,” he says. Additionally, women are often top networkers and innovators of modern philanthropy.

Women who made this list of powerful female philanthropists had to meet the following criteria: “(A) She directly, or jointly, controls a boatload of money, or strongly influence how a huge fortune is used; (B) She’s actively deploying that money for philanthropic ends in a hands-on way; and (C) She’s having an impact with her philanthropy, either directly or through her ideas and the example she sets, or both.” Given such a strong list of inspiring women, I think it’s safe to say that many of them possess all three of these categories, and are not only making the world a better place because of their fiscal generosity, but because of how they inspire others to follow suit.

Learn more about these women and what it means to be a “powerful philanthropist” by visiting www.insidephilanthropy.com.

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Organizations Profiles

For Pierre and Pam Omidyar, the ‘Money Matters, But the Impact Matters More’

Pierre Omidyar, Forest Whitaker, Pam Omidyar, and Lawrence Bender.
Pierre Omidyar, Forest Whitaker, Pam Omidyar, and Lawrence Bender.
IMG: pmo via Flickr

Pierre and Pamela Omidyar have been making some serious philanthropic contributions for more than a decade now, with no signs of slowing down. A true philanthropic power couple, the Omidyars acquired their fortune from Pierre’s company, eBay, and have been as generous with their wealth as they are business-savvy. According to The Huffington Post, “After creating the world of eBay, a place where people could easily share passions and build businesses, Pierre Omidyar realized he had to take that platform out into the real world, to empower those in need,” of Pierre’s transition from successful entrepreneur to leading philanthropist.  

In 2004, the Omidyars created the Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm that creates opportunities for people who wish to engage in philanthropy with a significant social impact. Since it’s founding ten years ago, the Omidyar Network has been a platform in which Pierre and Pamela could invest in innovative organizations that impact social, economic, and political change. “Everyone is born equally capable, but lacks equal opportunity,” explains Pierre, who was inspired to create the Omidyar Network as a way to help those who don’t have access to funds to fuel their vision for a better world.

“I created [eBay] with the belief that people are good. If you give people the opportunity to do the right thing, you’ll rarely be disappointed, says Pierre. “After eBay became so financially successful, I really felt a sense of responsibility to put that to good use,” which is exactly what he and Pamela have done, in utilizing the Omidyar Network. In addition to their philanthropic investment firm, the Omidyars have created additional nonprofit organizations that tackle social issues. In 2005, Pamela took the lead in establishing Humanity United, an organization that confronts human trafficking and other issues of conflict globally. The couple also established Hopelab, a nonprofit foundation that uses technology to improve children’s health.

Pierre Omidyar is one of those rare philanthropists who is truly more concerned with the process of creating social change, rather than the dollar signs that help make that change happen. He explains, “When you look at the this top line number, it’s very easy to focus on dollars, […] The money matters, but the impact matters more. We’re really committed to trying to find new tools to have impact. That has been the most rewarding part of this journey,” of the ways in which the impact of doing good is more important than the monetary factor. Still, this is coming from the man who has donated more than $1 billion dollars to charitable causes and initiatives, a hefty sum that few other philanthropists have come close to matching.

Both at only 46 years old, one could argue that the Omidyars have many years of innovating philanthropy and passionate humanitarianism ahead.

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Profiles

Three Prominent Philanthropic “Power Couples”

Meryl Streep and Donald Gummer
s_bukley / Shutterstock.com
Meryl Streep and Donald Gummer have given millions to different philanthropic organizations.

When it comes to donating funds to worthy causes, two givers are always better than one. Happily, there are many charitable foundations backed by two philanthropic people, most commonly a husband and wife team. Leading businesspeople, celebrities, and entrepreneurs have donated millions of dollars, as well as their time to important causes, and more often than not, their philanthropically-likeminded partner helps to make the impact of giving that much stronger. Here are three notable “power couples” committed to philanthropy right now:

Meryl Streep and Donald Gummer: Academy Award-winning actress Meryl Streep and her husband, sculptor Donald Gummer, are two of the most generous philanthropists in Hollywood, and also perhaps the most discreet. Their philanthropy might come as a surprise to many; the two never seek praise or recognition for their monetary donations, but have given millions to organizations like Oxfam America, Partners in Health, and Vassar College, to name a few. Through their privately established Silver Mountain Foundation for the Arts, Streep and Gummer have created education and arts-based grants, helping charter schools, people seeking higher education, and arts initiatives.

Bill and Melinda Gates: This power couple is known for their remarkably generous contributions to charity through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other outlets. Reportedly having a net worth of $72 billion, the couple has publicly pledged to eventually donate as much as 95% of their wealth to charity. With a primary focus on improving education, and impacting global health and development programs, as of 2007, Bill and Melinda Gates had already donated over $28 billion to worthy causes around the world. To learn more about this philanthropic duo, read our detailed profiles of Bill Gates and Melinda Gates.

Pierre and Pam Omidyar: Pierre Omidyar is known as the founder of the online auction site eBay, but has become even more of a prominent figure as a philanthropist. In 2004, Pierre and his wife Pam created the Omidyar Network, a philanthropic foundation that invests in and assists innovative organizations that will eventually impact social, economic, and political change. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that “the goal of their work is to make a social impact,” and that they have already donated hundreds of millions of dollars to organizations that will impact the most societal change.

These are just three of the many philanthropic-minded couples that have generously donated time and money to worthy causes. What other philanthropic “power couples” can you think of?

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Profiles

Prominent People in Philanthropy: Pierre and Pam Omidyar

As a young researcher at an immunology lab, Pam Omidyar spent hours examining cancer cells in her lab. In order to relax after work, she would play video games, and she began to wonder if video games could also act as therapy for children struggling with cancer. And thus began HopeLab, a nonprofit that conducts research on a range of chronic illnesses, and that produces solutions like Re-Mission, a video game that helps youth cope with their cancer.

Pam’s work is made possible by her philanthropic work with her husband, Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay. Together they founded the Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm, which empowers people to help their own communities. Read the rest of their profile here: Pierre and Pam Omidyar.