Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos is one of the richest people in the world, and like fellow billionaire and Seattleite Bill Gates, he’s trying to find ways to give away that money.
Bezos turned to Twitter Thursday to request ideas on how he should focus his philanthropy from his followers, saying he wants to focus on “the right now.”
“I like long-term — it’s a huge lever: Blue Origin, Amazon, Washington Post — all of these are contributing to society and civilization in their own ways,” Bezos, also the owner of the Washington Post, wrote in the message. “But I’m thinking I want much of my philanthropic activity to be helping people in the here and now — short term — at the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact.”
So far the Tweet has received more than a thousand replies, with suggestions including funding women’s healthcare, repurposing shipping containers into housing for homeless in Seattle and erasing student loan debt to help more people get trained in STEM fields.
Early childhood education, esp 1st 1000 days for mother & child. Eliminate school lunchroom debt.
— Michele Norris (@michele_norris) June 15, 2017
Even a Post staffer, religion reporter Julie Zauzmer, got into the mix:
Homelessness as we know it didn't exist pre-'80s & can end. Permanent supportive housing. (Got lots more info if you want. -A Post reporter)
— Julie Zauzmer (@JulieZauzmer) June 15, 2017
Bezos and Amazon have faced a fair amount of flack from Seattle natives who are unhappy with how they’re changing the city. Until recently the tech giant also didn’t have much of a philanthropic habit, in contrast to the strong philanthropic tradition that Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have developed.
One of Amazon’s major ongoing philanthropic efforts has been a partnership with Mary’s Place, a homeless shelter for women and families. The company announced in May that it will put a permanent Mary’s Place shelter in its new headquarters in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.
Bezos has also quietly upped the ante on his personal giving. His family foundation has donated about $30 million to Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle over the past decade and it is the namesake of the center’s new Immunotherapy Clinic. It announced a further $35 million donation in March, Fred Hutch’s biggest individual donation in its 40-year history.