How Laurene Powell Jobs Keeps The Jobs Family Philanthropy Under Wraps

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Steve Jobs received a lot of criticism for not giving away more of the cash he made from Apple and his other ventures, but thanks to wife Laurene Powell Jobs, the Jobs family contributes more than you might think. In fact, they’ve been giving money away for more then two decades, they just happen to be very good at keeping it under wraps.

Not everyone likes to shout about the contributions they make to charity; some prefer to keep it anonymous. And Laurene Powell Jobs is one of those people.

“We’re really careful about amplifying the great work of others in every way that we can, and we don’t like attaching our names to things,” Ms. Powell Jobs said in an interview for The New York Times last week. But how does she keep her efforts so quiet?

The NYT’s Claire Cain Miller reports that one of the main ways Ms. Powell Jobs keeps her donations anonymous is by cleverly making her organization, Emerson Collective, a limited liability company (LLC). An LLC is like a small business, rather than a tax-exempt charitable organization or foundation.

This comes with some advantages. For instance, Emerson can make grants, investments in for-profit companies, and political donations. But more importantly, it does not have to publicly disclose its donations like a foundation does.

“Doing things anonymously and being nimble and flexible and responsive are all things we value on our team,” said Ms. Powell Jobs.

Ms. Powell Jobs’s organization isn’t the only one that does this. Miller reports that the strategy is actually becoming quite popular as people seek flexibility, freedom, and anonymity for their investments.

“The beauty of having an LLC in today’s world is No. 1, you have the ability to act and react as nimbly as need be to create change, and you have the ability to invest politically, in the for-profit sector and the nonprofit sector simultaneously,” said Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, who teaches philanthropy at Stanford, runs her own organization, and is a close friend of Ms. Powell Jobs.

“And the reality is,” she added, “we are now seeing a blurring of the lines between the sectors in a way that was not even discussed 10 years ago. The way that we are going to solve social problems is by working with multiple different types of investing.”

One of Ms. Powell Jobs’s biggest projects is College Track, a college preparation organization that she co-founded in 1997. College Track operates six centers across the United States, in Aurora, East Palo Alto, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Oakland, and San Francisco.

The organization’s aim is to help under-resourced high school students prepare for college by focusing on four core services areas, including academic affairs, student life, college affairs, and college success.

“It’s like my second house,” said Chris Seruge, 17, who visits the San Francisco center each day for tutoring and will apply to college next year with the help of College Track. “Without it, I’d be struggling.”

Miller notes that there is evidence of other contributions related to the Jobs family. Every year, Pixar, which Steve Jobs helped build in the late eighties, hosts a film screening to raise money for College Track. This year, attendees will pay $1,000 a ticket to see a pre-release screening of Monsters University, the upcoming prequel to Monsters, Inc.

Other College Track supporters include Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google; Marissa Mayer, chief executive of Yahoo; Ron Conway, the angel investor; and Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce.com.

  • HerbalEd

    As it’s now becoming public knowledge that Steve Jobs was actually philanthropising for many years … but with his usual clandestine privacy … now is the time for all those critics who condemned and slammed him to come forward with an apology. But, alas, we’ll hear from none of them. They are so quick and loud to condemn, yet so quiet when proven wrong.

    And, while there’s nothing wrong with philanthropists taking credit for their generosity, I think it actually shows even more class not to.

About the author

Killian BellKillian Bell is a staff writer based in the U.K. He has an interest in all things tech and also covers Android over at CultofAndroid.com. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell.

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