Venture capitalists make lifetime philanthropy pledge | May 4, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 4, 2012

Venture capitalists make lifetime philanthropy pledge

Six local nonprofits benefit from shares of 'immediate' $1 million gift by six partners

by Chris Kenrick

The six partners of the Menlo Park venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz will give a $1 million donation to six local nonprofits, the firm has announced.

The $1 million gift is part of a longer-term pledge by the six to "donate at least half of all income from our venture capital careers to philanthropic causes during our lifetimes."

The six are Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen and general partners Ben Horowitz, John O'Farrell, Jeff Jordan, Scott Weiss and Peter Levine.

Along with their spouses, they hope their giving "can, over time, make the world a better place," they said in an April 25 statement.

"We are fortunate to work with some of the best entrepreneurs and technologists in the world and in the process help create great and valuable companies," they said.

"That activity, done well over decades, can generate a lot of money that can then be productively deployed philanthropically back into the society that makes it all possible."

The local nonprofits immediately benefiting from the Andreessen Horowitz gift are Santa Clara-based Via Services, serving children with special needs; the Ecumenical Hunger Program of East Palo Alto; Second Harvest Food Bank serving Santa Clara and San Mateo counties; Fresh Lifelines for Youth, a Milpitas-based nonprofit that works with at-risk teens; Canopy of Palo Alto, dedicated to planting and preserving trees in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and surrounding communities; and The Shelter Network, an agency serving the homeless on the San Francisco Peninsula.

Canopy Executive Director Catherine Martineau said the approximately $170,000 gift is the largest in the agency's history.

It was designated by Andreessen Horowitz partner Peter Levine and his wife, Martha Blackwell, a former Canopy board member.

"Our family's passion for the environment and my specific interest in trees, along with our familiarity with the important work Canopy does in the community, guided our choice for this first round," Blackwell said.

Martineau said Canopy will use the gift to "pursue innovative education programs.

"Canopy is honored and grateful to receive this large gift and to be part of a group of leading organizations that do vital work in the community," she said.

Andreessen is the husband of local philanthropist Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, author of the 2011 book "Giving 2.0: Transform Your Giving and Our World," which suggests ways to increase the effectiveness of charitable giving "of all forms and sizes."

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 30, 2012 at 11:28 am

Ouch. Half this money comes out of tax dollars, doesn't it? Thus starving our local, state, and federal governments. Revenge of the 1 percent. Or maybe a tax expert can tell us that it's collected through the AMT anyway?

Posted by Get real, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm

To musical,

U must be kidding, right?
At least this way we know where the $$ is going instead of being poorly mismanaged.
Thanks HW for your generosity!

Posted by musician, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Most of these charities fill in the gaps where the government safety net is incomplete. I wouldn't look it at as taking away tax dollars. They're actually taking some pressure off of the government by providing needed services. I agree with Get Real that we should be thankful about the gift rather than look at it as a tax dodge.

Posted by Bud, a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 30, 2012 at 1:14 pm

I can't believe that anyone would actually find fault with this generous offer. This may be one of the maladjusted people that find fault with bill Gates because he giving his fortune away to philanthropic causes. If you are one of the 99% who is donating less than 1% per year to good works....keep it to yourself.

Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Apr 30, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Elizabeth, Family and Community

Posted by Dan, a resident of Southgate
on Apr 30, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Pledging to give 50% of all future earnings each year (as opposed to after you die) hugely raises the bar. Let's hope others of similar means accept the challenge.

Posted by MView Rez, a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 30, 2012 at 8:56 pm

...I just hope they finally come down to Mountain View! Our trees need help down here!

Posted by Palo alto resident, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 30, 2012 at 9:31 pm

I am impressed that they are giving to services that help kids with special needs.

Posted by To Musical, a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 1, 2012 at 6:05 am

Musical: If you really believe these donations come out of our tax dollars, I assume you believe that all earnings belong to the government, then? In other words, from each his ability to the "government" who then will distribute to each according to his need?

Might want to rethink your assumptions there. If you still believe this after thinking about it, I think you may be happier in a place that lives by your beliefs.

In the meantime, I celebrate the generosity by these folks. THANKS! We are the most generous people in the world, and you are continuing the great American tradition.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 1, 2012 at 8:33 am

Thank you Marc and Ben - this is wonderful!

Posted by Thank you!, a resident of Midtown
on May 1, 2012 at 10:08 am

Thank you! You are setting a great example for future generations.

Posted by local gurl, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 2, 2012 at 4:30 pm

What a generous gift to so many deserving organizations!!

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 2, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Responding before this thread becomes too stale, I'll stick with my premise that a good portion of such donations comes out of income tax dollars. At marginal rates of 28% federal and 9.3% state, it combines to about 35% if one has sufficient deductions to itemize. Gifting of appreciated capital assets or securities (those Apple shares bought at 26) becomes quite a bit more advantageous.

Not finding fault, just commenting that such largesse has an often-unrecognized but significant unearned component. Since it is clearly going to the greater good, this is rightfully encouraged and applauded by most everyone (even me, especially if supporting causes I agree with).

Taxes will always be contentious, as will government vs private entity as provider of services.

Posted by To Musical, a resident of Greater Miranda
on May 3, 2012 at 8:15 am

To musical: Then obviously, in your world, we need to raise all income taxes to make sure nobody has any to give to charity, and rely on the govt to redistribute those taxes to worthy causes, because, of course, the govt will choose only the worthy causes that are effective and efficient.

What really cracks me up is your comment "esp if supporting causes I agree with" tax dollars are under your control to decide where they go, but your own dollars of charity aren't!!! Tell you what, I will go along with your premise, but only if all the tax dollars go to what I want them to support.

Honestly, completely cracked me up. I am sorry if I am hurting your feelings or something, I suspect you are well-intended and simply just extremely naive, but really and truly, your post was funny.

Thanks again a billion time to these fellas for their commitment to the spirit of freely given generosity.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 3, 2012 at 11:12 am

Glad I could amuse you. While I may not be expressing it well and my grasp of economics is no better than Money Magazine, we are probably on the same page. I never advocated raising income tax rates, though many people do, and rates are scheduled to go up anyway. The current world is a middle ground where the charity of one's choice is half subsidized by income tax deduction. An extreme in one direction would be no deduction, no subsidy, thus no difference in government revenue, and the hope that people donate generously anyway so that charities don't suffer and the government doesn't need to plug more safety-net shortfalls. The other extreme would be allowing each taxpayer to dictate where all his tax dollars will go, and hoping for the best since we individually do such a more efficient and effective job than our elected officials. N'est-ce pas? The middle ground seems to be maintained by the fact that deductions don't affect sales tax, property tax, social security tax, etc, and the Alternative Minimum Tax somehow mitigates income tax write-offs.

Now quoting Forrest: "That's all I have to say about that."

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields


Best Of Palo Alto ballot is here

It's time to decide what local business is worthy of the title "Best Of Palo Alto" — and you get to decide! Cast your ballot online. Voting ends May 29th. Stay tuned for the results in the July 21st issue of the Palo Alto Weekly.