How billionaire Jack Dorsey is using a Google spreadsheet to share the story of his mega-gift.

Billionaire philanthropy can be problematic; is giving really altruistic when it’s used to influence political outcomes and preserve systems that keep wealth at the top? Who is keeping it accountable? And what of the question of how the mega-wealth was made in the first place?  

Imagine then a mega-gift that’s tracked in a Google spreadsheet for the whole world to see. And that to apply for funding is as easy as completing a simple Google form.  

That’s exactly what Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter and Square, made possible when he pledged US$1 billion of Square shares to a limited liability company (LLC) called Start Small in April 2020. 

 

 

Yep, whilst not obligated to do so within the LLC structure, Dorsey is recording every gift distributed in this publicly available Google spreadsheet – holding both Start Small and its gift recipients accountable on a global stage.  

Completing this Google form is all it takes to submit a funding request; no onerous applications here and unlike the majority of US foundations, Start Small does accept unsolicited requests. 

That’s not to say everything’s out on the table. Dorsey doesn’t have a website for the LLC, seemingly relying on one staff member to Tweet grant announcements as they arise. At first glance, this site appears to be the organisation’s official platform, with a record of gifts, FAQs and a link to the Google form, but it turns out the page has been created by an unaffiliated developer.  

Dorsey is a difficult man to reach and the lack of a website or public point of contact has led to criticism that, in order to get in front of him, you need to be either in the Silicon Valley set, or a celebrity.  

But whatever the flaws, this is for sure: over US$426 million has been distributed to date to nonprofits focused on COVID-19, social justice, girls’ health and education, and UBI (universal basic income). The beneficiaries are predominantly from minority populations. And Dorsey’s gift is swelling in size given it was made in the form of a stock donation. The Google spreadsheet tells us that, today, there is almost $US4 billion left to give.  

Dorsey is a man of his word, showing his peers that he is committed to giving his wealth away now, not later, and making sure his philanthropy happens out in the open with a simple approach. In the age of mega-wealth, there is a lot to be learnt from his example.  

To learn more about the growing discourse on philanthropy and the super-rich click here for this brilliant read from the Guardian.  

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