A Look At This Tech VC's Wide-Ranging Philanthropy

Venture capitalist James Swartz crossed our radar last summer when he and his wife Susan gave $31 million to Carnegie Mellon University, one of several gifts Swartz has given to bolster entrepreneurship at his alma mater. At the time, I remarked that Swartz's deep background in tech—his company Accel Partners has invested in such companies such as Facebook, Dropbox, and Etsy—made his focus on entrepreneurship unsurprising.

But the Swartzes' philanthropy, apart from promoting promising entrepreneurs, has not fit into any single category. They've given millions, for example, to Harvard Divinity School. And the couple also co-founded a film financing company, Impact Partners, which invests in socially oriented documentary and independent films.  


Here are a few must-knows:

1. James and Susan Swartz have a deep interest in the arts and media

James is a trustee at the Sundance Institute and Susan sits on the board of the Utah Film Center. The couple's Impact Partners finances "independent documentary cinema that addresses pressing social issues." Impact Partners has bankrolled films such as 2010 Oscar winner for best Independent Documentary Feature, The Cove, which provided a glimpse into dolphin kills in Japan, and The Garden, which tells the story of a community garden which emerged in the wake of the L.A. riots.

Swartz has recently given to Firelight Media, which "produces award-winning films that expose injustice, illuminate the power of community and tell a history seldom told," Open Eye Pictures, and Martha’s Vinyard Film Festival.

Apart from film, the couple has steadily supported arts institutions such as Park City Performing Arts Center, San Francisco Ballet, San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Symphony, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where James  is a trustee. Susan is a longtime painter and environmental activist.

2. The Couple Has Also Supported Churches and Religious Outfits

In addition to their central roles in the entrepreneurship center at Carnegie Mellon and Impact Partners film financing, the couple co-chairs the Christian Center of Park City, which they helped found in 2000. In fact, churches make up quite a number of recent grantees of the Swartz Foundation Trust. They've given to outfits such as the Bethel AME Church, Campus Crusade for Christ, Salt Lake Christian Fellowship, among others. A big winner here is Harvard Divinity School, where Susan serves on the dean's council. A $10 million gift in 2013 created the Susan Shallcross Swartz Endowment for Christian Studies at Harvard Divinity School. (Before attending Carnegie Mellon, Swartz went Harvard, but not the Divinity School.)

3. The Couple Gives to Human Services and Health

Swartz also founded the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard, which recently received more than $100,000. The couple also has an interest in Lyme Disease, with recent money going to the Lyme Disease Research Foundation Of Maryland. The story here is that Susan has dealt with Lyme disease and mercury poisoning.

Unfortunately for grantseekers, the Swartz Foundation Trust doesn't have much of a web presence, or a clear avenue for grantseekers to get in touch.

Related: James Swartz Guide