It’s a well-known fact that the
world lost a brilliant mind yesterday with the passing of Apple CEO
Steve Jobs. While many mourn the death of a modern-day DaVinci, we can
still learn a great deal from this man and his stance on philanthropy.
While some in the public sector question Jobs’s financial contributions, his impact-based giving is impressive to say the least. After
frustrating experiences with California’s organ transplant registries,
Jobs worked with the Governor and First Lady of California to make it
the first state with a live kidney transplant registry. Throw on top of
his legislative changes the impact of Apple’s products in the nonprofit
and healthcare sectors, and its tough to argue that he wasn’t a
Learning through Failure
In an interview Jobs gave before
I was born, he commented that in order to be done well, philanthropy
was a full time job. This might explain the failure of his personal
foundation, which started and closed within a 15-month timeframe. I
can’t readily blame him for ending the endeavor, remembering that he was
simultaneously starting two companies at the same time as the
foundation. He did what he knew best, and he left philanthropy to the experts.
In the past two decades, Bill
Gates and Warren Buffett campaigned among the elite in favor of a giving
pledge, encouraging our nation’s wealthiest to donate significant
portions of their fortunes publically. While Jobs declined to
participate, nothing indicates that he ignored charitable giving, and
this is a clear lesson to those of us who ask for major gifts for a
living. Jobs didn’t have a tarnished image in need of repair (like
Gates, Buffett, or facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who donated huge sums
of money prior to the release of the Social Network), nor did he
experience a lengthy retirement or resignation in time to develop a
namesake foundation and publicize his charitable work. His life revolved around his company and family, and in both his business strategy and giving, simplicity reigned supreme.
As such, the charitable giving
of Steve Jobs remains a mystery although Jobs’s wife served on the
boards of several charities, and Jobs himself has been linked to
anonymous donations, particularly to a San Francisco-based cancer
research center. The lesson here is that not everyone with personal
financial wealth wants to display their causes, donations, or
intentions, and that isn’t a sign that they aren’t giving.
One factor that hasn’t been
mentioned much in the day since his passing is that Jobs left this earth
with more than 8 billion dollars in assets (mostly in apple and Disney
stock) and it isn’t likely that he left the whole of this wealth to his
children. While I doubt I’ll be seeing his name on a building anytime soon, all evidence points to philanthropy of some sort.
As I sit here typing this blog
post on an apple product, it is clear to me that Jobs wasn’t interested
in using philanthropy to build a legacy, which is just one factor
distinguishing him from his peers. His legacy is his company, his
innovation, and his imagination. He took technology to
another level, and remained an active part of this company until shortly
before his death. His company was his legacy, and with each iphone that
I use to swipe a credit card donation for my foundation and each
macbook pro we use to design marketing materials and each song that is
downloaded from itunes to benefit disasters like Haiti and Japan, he did
leave his mark on philanthropy.
It doesn’t take a dollar sign to make a donation, and in terms of actual impact, Steve Jobs is in my mind, one of the greats. Take
a moment to look around your office and imagine how things would work
without the technology he helped create, and then you’ll see the true
philanthropy of Steve Jobs.