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Gates Foundation CEO Sue Desmond-Hellman speaks with GeekWire co-founder Todd Bishop at the GeekWire Summit. (Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire)

Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is the richest person in the world, and now he’s facing a puzzling question: How should he give away some of his many billions?

At the GeekWire Summit on Tuesday, GeekWire co-founder Todd Bishop asked Sue Desmond-Hellmann, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, what advice she would give Bezos as he starts on a new journey into philanthropy. Her first response might surprise some: Practice.

“Practicing is actually great with generosity,” Desmond-Hellmann said during the on-stage interview. “I tell people there’s no bad generosity. It might be your church, it might be the local soup kitchen, it might be actually somebody you say a kind word to because you’re being generous and kind and can sense they might need a kind word.”

Bezos last month announced the Day One Fund, a new philanthropic initiative designed to create solutions for early childhood education and homelessness.

“I’m really excited he’s getting more into philanthropy,” Desmond-Hellmann said.

Along with practice, the Gates Foundation CEO said it’s important to examine the impact of those actions.

“If you give and you understand the results of that giving and look deeply at them and you’re intellectually honest, as I know Jeff is, there’s a feedback loop,” she said. “So practicing, allowing for a feedback loop, is essential for philanthropy. I think it’s underestimated.

“The second thing I would say is: There isn’t one great way to give away money,” Desmond-Hellmann added. “There isn’t [just] one way. What I would love to see any philanthropist do is practice and figure out where big deeds are where you think you can make a unique contribution.”

So has Bezos paid the Gates Foundation a visit? Not yet, Desmond-Hellmann said, but “he is welcome any time. Any time.”

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