Billionaires and Nonprofit Organizations

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.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.


  1. Who wants to give money to this city going down the toilet!  Chuck just wants to give away pennies on the dollar to all his rich friends whom he will hook up with when his time is up as mayor!

  2. You, like your Demo. friends and Obama, have all sorts of ways to spend other peoples’ money.

    And your contributions to charity last year were…how much???  What % of your income??? Do your part and shut up about other folks.

    • We give to charities and if I had a billion, I’d give even more. . . if you know anything,  About economics you know that most people become rich on OPM (other people’s money).

      Most importantly charity comes from discressionary income, which the rich have an abundance.  Greed is not a positive human trait.

      Nobody ever became rich by themselves.  It is part of the social contract of America that if you make a lot of money, keep most of it.  But a moral person would give something back to their community which made getting rich possible.

  3. The Left gave Bill Gates no credit for building a company that created thousands of jobs and distributed wealth throughout the country. He was openly despised and ridiculed. But when CEO Gates became Philanthropist Gates suddenly he became their darling.

    Just goes to show how these Progressives think people should have everything given to them rather than work for them.

    • John, libertarians have no idea how important racial categories are for the ultra left. 

      Gates became the darling of the ultra left when he excluded all the diverse white American kids from eligibility for his Gates Millennium Scholarship. 

      It wasn’t his philanthropy that made him popular among some segments of the ultra left, it was his willingness to racially discriminate, a hallmark of the ultra left.

      • Really?  White guys are discriminated against?  That history and continuation of racism in this society doesn’t come from people of color.

        On the upside they will be in the majority in a few years, I hope they treat us better than we white people treated them for the last 500+ years. 

        btw:  what percentage of people of color are in positions of power?  And it wasn’t the fee market that created the inequity—it was government policy that allowed white people to have an advantage over generations.

        Equality among the races and women has only been institutionally recognized for less than one generation—and we still see overt racism and sexism,  from FOX to the WSJ, from capital hill to Rush Limbaugh, Hannity and the tea party.

        Our President may be of African descent, but the owners of this nation are still white and male.  For them to utter a whine about discrimination is unseemly and wrong

        And when white people are called out on their history, the victims of years of discrimination are called anti-American,  Well nothing is more antiAmerican now than overt racism—in the irony of our times, those who practice it most, deny it ever existed—for them.

        Me thinks the man doth protest too much.

        • Rich:

          You are a PROFESSIONAL communicator.  You get paid for saying things clearly and unambiguously.

          Let me be clear about what it is you’re trying to say.

          Are you saying that whites are especially racist?

          Are you saying that whites are more racist than other ethnic groups?

      • Wow, Rich, you sound like an instructor of postmodern English literature explaining the world to a gaggle of first year students at a community college.  Focus, man, focus.

        The Gates Millennium Scholarship discriminates against all the diverse white kids (not just “white guys” in your elegant phrase) including those who come from poor, challenged backgrounds just like other kids in this multi-racial nation.

        An economic test to determine eligibility to apply for the Gates Millennium Scholarship is one thing, but a racial test is something else entirely.  I’m shocked to see you defend the indefensible.

        You’ve drunk the kool-aid on the Howard Zinn version of American history, but we’re talking about young kids here.  Have you no decency at last?

        • Rich, the white American peoples including kids are amazingly diverse by home country nationality (Swiss, Italy, Turkey, Israel, Austrian, Cuba, etc.), ethnicity (Celtic, Germanic, Hispanic, etc.), regional origins (New England, Deep South, etc.), home country language, number of generations from family arrival to enrollment in elementary school here, and so on.

          Diversity extends itself to considerations of wealth, income, height, weight, hair color, eye color, etc.

          As an example, I was invited to address a class at Santa Clara University a few years ago, and the adjunct professor thought there was no such thing as white diversity.  So I asked all the diverse white kids what their country of origin was, how many generations here, etc., and they all (except for one adopted person) knew their individual diversity.

          Time to respect everyone’s diversity.

          Jim McEntee had your attitude, and I kept bugging him to look into his Irish heritage which he finally did on a trip to Ireland, and he connected instantly and with self-respect to that culture.  He had lost touch with his own diversity, and found it before he died.

          And never forget, Che Guevara was 1/2 Irish!

      • “and we still see overt racism and sexism,  from FOX to the WSJ, from capital hill to Rush Limbaugh, Hannity and the tea party.”

        Rich.  Examples please from each of the above.

        Let me help you…
        – “Obama is a ‘Light-Skinned’ ‘with No Negro Dialect”?  (Reid)
        – “you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” (Biden)
        – being a former member of the KKK (Byrd)
        – calling Colin Powell a ‘house slave’ (Belafonte)
        – Condaleeza Rice being caricatured as Aunt Jemima by leftist editorial cartoonists

        The left’s love of all things diverse is a complete fraud and extends only to those who buy the left’s ideology. 

        Any person of color who dares walk off the left’s ideological plantation is subjected to the most vicious and hateful racism.

        Democrat racism.  Crickets.
        A Republican making any of the above statements would be pilloried by the mainstream media and then run out on a rail. 

  4. Hey Rich,
        Sobrato just wrote a check for 5 million to the VMC foundation.  If your not aware or refuse to admit, VMC has a “No Turn Away” policy.  Your feeble attempt at extortion is sad.  Perhaps you may want to write an article on what Mr. Sobrato has done for the community and maybe you might get further.  You remind me of the forced signature contribution extorsion we used to get at work.  Yep ended up being signed with NO contributions.  I do my contributions to DAV an St. Jude.

  5. Rich,
    Thank you for calling attention to the “elephant in the room”.  If institutions of higher learning which already have billion dollar endowments can benefit from huge donations from generous philanthropists, think of what a determined and creative organization like Family Supportive Housing can do for hardworking families with a fraction of that.

  6. > Nobody simply wants to give money and watch other people mishandle, misuse, abuse or simply spend it without discernable results.

    What?  Are you sure?

    Have you checked to see how the Obama Energy policy has worked out?

    • As opposed to the Bush big pharma debacle, the Bush bank bailout, two unfunded wars and the ever so insane energy policy fostered by both parties since the discovery of the internal combustion engine?

      BTW: Investing in new energy, Solara notwithstanding, is the right thing to do.  The biggest growth of jobs is in new energy—not old energy.

      Last, no economic system works if global warming continues unabated.  So spend your dollars now—

      • > BTW: Investing in new energy, Solara notwithstanding, is the right thing to do.


        You’re an investment advisor, too?

        Can you provide few testimonials from a some of your successful clients?

        Do you discourage your clients from investing in white owned businesses?

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