While older tech fortunes have created the largest foundations in California, younger people are finding it's possible to become philanthropists, too.
Nowadays, it seems that everyone younger than 45 has his or her own nonprofit or foundation -- or at least pet cause. From 1999 to 2004, the number of foundations in California grew from 4,208 to 6,242, an increase of nearly 50 percent, according to a recent study by the Foundation Center in New York, which tracks philanthropic giving.
Though the center does not track donors' ages, a growing number in the Bay Area's younger set are leading their peers into philanthropic efforts, spurred in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's unprecedented efforts to tackle global health issues and financier Warren Buffett's historic $1.5 billion contribution to the Gates Foundation this year.
Some are creating new types of foundations by borrowing business models used in the venture capital world. Others are creating projects more appealing to their friends than conventional institutional programs. And those without millions are putting what they do have -- time and effort -- into innovative nonprofits, hoping that their successes will make it hip to do good.
"This is really the first time in history where a lifetime of wealth creation can happen to an individual in their 20s or 30s," said Laura Arrillaga, 36, a Stanford University business school lecturer who teaches strategic philanthropy and who in 1998 started her own foundation, Silicon Valley Social Ventures, known as SV2. "These are individuals who are creators, changemakers, proactive in reshaping the way things are done across all industries, so it makes sense they'd change the way philanthropy is done."
Peter Hero is the former president of Community Foundation Silicon Valley in San Jose says, "The era of people writing a check to the American Cancer Society is over among newer wealthy people," he said. "They're hands-on and have an investment mentality, asking, 'Where's the greatest return on my investment and how will I know it?' "
[Excerpt of an article by Carolyne Zinko, San Francisco Chronicle]