Why are there so few John Sobratos? In one of the richest areas of the world, there is a dearth of giving among the wealthiest in our midst. Many of the social problems we currently suffer could be alleviated by smart programs and a relatively small commitment from the people who have benefited the most from American opportunity.
To be clear, if a person has one million dollars they are doing well. If they have $10 million they are rich. If they have $30 million or more—it’s a number. The absurdity of having $1 billion and not using it for something that would benefit entire communities is beyond me.
When Warren Buffett announced he was giving away the bulk of his money to the Gates Foundation, he noted his children would only receive $1 billion each as their inheritance. A reporter questioned whether Buffett’s children were happy with his decision. Really? Like the kids were going to go hungry with “only” $1 billion.
John Sobrato, in my opinion, is our most successful local philanthropist. He has several models for giving, but each one supports the concept that people must take responsibility and be accountable. Sobrato doesn’t just enable nonprofits. Sometimes he loans charities money that they can then leverage but must pay back. He provides office space through three nonprofit centers he created. But the nonprofit must come up with overhead, operating funds and a sustainable revenue model.
Nobody simply wants to give money and watch other people mishandle, misuse, abuse or simply spend it without discernable results. Sadly, some charities and nonprofits still fundraise like it is the 17th century; hitting old Scrooge up every Christmas to operate their charities and sustain their payrolls.
A better alternative is for charitable entities to set-up endowments that provide income for operations. Properly funded; this model allows charities to utilize capital profits to fund operating expenses and eliminates the need to go hat-in-hand every year to sustain an organization. In addition, fundraising efforts are targeted to increasing principle in the endowment fund, thus operating budgets increase as the endowment increases.
Sadly, too many nonprofits utilize the old method of fundraising that is unsustainable as eventually contributors get tired of shelling out on a yearly basis.
It is simpler for the John Sobratos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffetts et al to write one big check than to be nickeled and dimed on an annual basis—in this case a nickel being $100,000 and a dime reaching up to a $1 million.
That said, the San Jose Family Shelter, a new home for at-risk families with children is due to open on time and on budget in March. However, the project still needs a paltry $1 million to complete its reserve. It is the type of project that any billionaire would be proud to be associated with.
Operated by Family Supportive Housing, San Jose Family Shelter produces clients whose lives are changed for the better because of a helping hand. Every year the shelter highlights inspiring stories of people who have succeeded in the most difficult of circumstances at their annual Soup Kitchen fundraiser held at Bellarmine Prep. It is one of the best fundraisers of the year.
And though John Sobrato would probably have no trouble stepping to the plate; it is time to let other wealthy people stake their claim to helping our community. With 42 billionaires in our local region, including Larry Ellison, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, Doris Fischer, George Roberts, Ray Dolby, Rupert Johnson and many more $100 millionaires around here, certainly someone local can write a check to the shelter without their palm perspiring.
Finally, a special note to Meg Whitman. For 1/189, or half of 1 percent, of the money you spent trying to become Governor of California, you could make a real difference in San Jose. Just saying.