High-tech donors – Focus on people, ideas, impact

By Todd Cohen

Entrepreneurs who got rich quick from the high-tech industry are forging a new breed of philanthropy that challenges charities themselves to be more entrepreneurial, a new study says.

High-tech donors expect charities to focus on the marketplace and on knowledge, says the study, which was sponsored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and conducted by researchers at the Social Welfare Research Institute at Boston College.

The study also found that high-tech donors expect charities they support to better understand the people they serve; address problems with comprehensive solutions; focus more on ideas and people than on money to solve problems; and measure success by how big their operations grow.

“The distinctiveness of high-tech donors does not lie in their motivations or their participation in venture philanthropy,” says the study, which was funded by Robert B. Pamplin, president and CEO of the R.B. Pamplin Corp. in Portland, Ore. “Rather, it is in their insistence on philanthropy that is market-conscious and knowledge-based.”

High-tech executives “believe that the key to success is astutely attending to the needs presented to them,” the study says, and “they place the highest priority on human intellectual capital and recognize the necessity of applying intellectual capital to meet those needs.”

The study, based on confidential interviews with 28 high-tech philanthropists with net worth ranging from $1 million to $1.15 billion, plus two spouses and several advisers, also found that donors have a strong commitment to developing their philanthropic identity and to giving.

While hoping to be even wealthier, having significant assets tied up in business, consumed by work and still learning about philanthropy, the study says, high-tech donors “will give despite a downturn in the economy” and “can be expected to give throughout their lifetimes.”

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