“We are proud to join Warren Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates and the others who have committed to the Giving Pledge. My wife, Mary, and I feel very fortunate and blessed that we find ourselves, at a relatively young age, to be able to give our time, treasure and talent to a variety of philanthropic organizations in a substantial manner.”
OUR GIVING PLEDGE LETTER
We are proud to join Warren Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates and the others who have committed to the Giving Pledge. My wife, Mary, and I feel very fortunate and blessed that we find ourselves, at a relatively young age, to be able to give our time, treasure and talent to a variety of philanthropic organizations in a substantial manner.
Both of us grew up in middle class homes (Mary in Portland, OR and Mark in Los Angeles, CA) where commitment, hard work, strong values and common sense framed the foundation of our early years. Our parents participated in a variety of charitable giving efforts despite their rather modest means. My mother, Carmela Stevens, had a great saying, “You can’t take it with you…”
We believe that success in any endeavor in life is a product of intelligence, determination and a bit of luck. Mary and I were both lucky to have started our careers in Silicon Valley in the 1980’s and participated in the fabulous growth of the technology industry during the 1990’s. I was fortunate enough to join Sequoia Capital in 1989 upon my graduation from graduate business school. It was very stimulating to finance entrepreneurs who wanted to change the world. Equally as rewarding was to see how Sequoia’s limited partners (largely foundations and endowments) applied their investment gains from us into meaningful initiatives to support education, help improve health care around the world, protect the environment, etc.
As the new century approached, Mary and I realized that we had more than enough wealth that we would ever need and began to think about what to do about it. There were four options: 1) give it to your kids (we have three), 2) let the government take it from you and redistribute it, 3) spend with reckless abandon or 4) donate virtually all of it to causes and organizations that we feel could make a difference in the world. The first option would inhibit our children’s dreams and motivations; the second option is very inefficient; the third option is not part of our DNA. We are thrilled to devote a significant portion of our future time and energy to option four.
I suppose we are in the “early innings” of our philanthropy. Our focus in the past ten years or so has been supporting our college and high school alma maters and our children’s schools. More recently, we have extended our support to other areas including health care research (cancer and neurologic diseases), local health care delivery, the environment and community organizations. Over time, our philanthropic aperture will likely widen and, simultaneously, will deepen in a few areas that we feel especially passionate about. We hope that as our children reach adulthood that they will join us in our family’s philanthropic mission.
We look forward to joining all of the other Giving Pledge families to foster a world that is a much better place in the coming decades.