New York: You’re an astronomically wealthy tech mogul who has mastered the art of getting people to spend money with your company over the internet. How do you come up with fresh ideas for giving some of your fortune away?
If you’re Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon.com, you fire up Twitter, naturally.
On Thursday, Bezos sent a tweet to his more than 222,000 followers asking for suggestions for philanthropic giving. He specifically asked for ideas that could help the world in the near term, a contrast to long-term personal investments he has made in for-profit companies with social impact, like Blue Origin, a space firm, and The Washington Post.
Bezos wrote, “I’m thinking I want much of my philanthropic activity to be helping people in the here and now — short term — at the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact.”
As an example of the kind of near-term effort he has in mind, Bezos singled out a commitment Amazon recently made to provide a homeless shelter for families, Mary’s Place, with a permanent home in a new Amazon office building that will be built starting later this year.
The prospect of someone with Bezos’ wealth — he is the third-richest person in the world, with a fortune of more than $82 billion, according to Forbes — increasing his giving was greeted enthusiastically by people who work in philanthropy. His approach is unusual compared with many big philanthropists from the technology field, like Bill Gates, a founder of Microsoft, whose foundation has tackled long-term global health problems like malaria, among other challenges.
Bezos asked people to reply to his post with their ideas. A little more than five hours after his request, there were more than 3,600 such replies, including suggestions for contributing to affordable housing, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender causes and veterans’ organisations.