NET WORTH: $4.6 billion
SOURCE OF WEALTH: eBay
FUNDING AREAS: Environment, Education, Economic Opportunity, Health, Humanitarian Efforts, Social Change, Sustainable Markets
OVERVIEW: Jeff Skoll does his grantmaking through the Skoll Foundation, which prioritizes social entrepreneurship and supports organizations doing innovative work in a variety of fields, including education, the environment, economic development, health, and humanitarian efforts. Skoll also established Skoll Global Threats Fund, the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship, and the Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship.
BACKGROUND: Jeff Skoll holds a BSEE from the University of Toronto and an MBA from Stanford. He was the first employee, first president, and was once the second-largest stockholder at eBay, behind the company's founder Pierre Omidyar. Skoll also launched Participant Media, a Los Angeles-based media company that funds feature films and documentaries that promote social values while remaining commercially viable.
ENVIRONMENT: Skoll believes that climate change is one of the biggest issues facing humanity in the 21st century and made a $30 million grant to the Alliance for Climate Protection Campaign.
Skoll supports preventing deforestation as a key component to lowering carbon outputs. Skoll supports working with communities to improve land management, promoting policies that slow or arrest deforestation at a local or national level, using technology to improve monitoring, and employing other innovative, market-driven solutions through a number of organizations working in this area.
Among the other environmental organizations Skoll has supported are the American Council on Renewable Energy, the Marine Stewardship Council, Fair Trade USA, the BioRegional Development Group, and Ceres, an organization dedicated to working with institutional investors who believe that acting on climate change is in their companies' best interest. Skoll also is an investor in the electric car company Tesla and the owner of the third Tesla roadster off the line.
EDUCATION: Among other priorities, Skoll's philanthropy seeks to "advance innovations that enhance a person's ability to improve her/his economic well-being and personal dignity." And one of the biggest ways to do this is to provide educational opportunities. This is why much of Skoll's philanthropy prioritizes education initiatives, including programs that provide education to underserved communities in developing countries, after-school programs in the United States, vocational training programs, programs to train educators, service learning, and innovative online tools. Skoll also supported the launch of the Skoll Center for Impact and Entertainment, at the UCLA school of Theater, Film, and Television.
ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY: Improving opportunities for individuals in extreme poverty is at the heart of the Skoll Foundation's grantmaking. This mission has led to the support of a wide variety of social entrepreneurs and their organizations, and it prioritizes education, microfinancing, providing internet access in poor and rural areas, ending worker exploitation and child labor, boosting agricultural output for small farmers, and sustainable and environmentally friendly economic development. Most of these organizations support developing countries, and many of them also work on advocacy and policy issues that leverage additional government and private resources.
HEALTH: Social entrepreneurs supported by the Skoll Foundation have developed programs to address a variety of health issues, particularly in developing countries. One major area of focus has been developing clean, sustainable sources of drinking water and improving sanitation systems. Innovative programs that increase access to health services in poor and rural areas also have been a priority, as have the immunization of children and the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of AIDS and tuberculosis. The foundation also supports the first nonprofit drug research and development organization in the United States, which concentrates on developing lifesaving medicine for neglected yet prevalent diseases.
HUMANITARIAN EFFORTS: The Skoll Foundation has championed a variety of humanitarian causes, including work to protect civilians from armed conflict, remove landmines from war-torn areas and rehabilitate land, fight human trafficking and the conscription of child soldiers, improve countries' legal systems and access to justice, and create popular support and pressure for a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine. Skoll also financed the Gandhi Project in partnership with Relief International, which created an Arabic version of the film Gandhi. They used Palestinian voice actors and artists to make the film particularly relevant to Palestinians.
SOCIAL CHANGE: Skoll founded Participant Media because he believes that "a story well-told has the power to ignite positive social change." In 2014, he launched the Center for Social Impact Entertainment at UCLA with a $10 Million donation.
LOOKING FORWARD: Many of the social entrepreneurs supported by Skoll and his foundation are seeking innovative solutions to major issues that span more than one cause or geographic area. So look for Skoll to provide increased support to organizations that merge two or more of the foundation's main areas of interest, such as improving health outcomes while simultaneously promoting environmental stewardship and economic development. Also likely is a continued focus on affecting policy outcomes mainly through the films of Participant Media.