As brush fires continue to devastate Australia, an increasing number of celebrities have attempted to help by donating to relief efforts. Among them is Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who on Sunday pledged $690,000 to the cause.
That’s right — $690,000.
True, it’s comparable to the contributions made by other famous folks in recent days. Actresses Rebel Wilson, Nicole Kidman and Phoebe Waller-Bridge and singer Pink donated hundreds of thousands, each. But considering the internet retailing giant he runs earned $232.9 billion in revenue last year, and Bezos individually makes nearly $9 million per hour, people were, shall we say, less than impressed. On social media, users balked at how small a fraction of his wealth the donation represents, and wondered, “Are we supposed to be impressed?”
As of publication, neither Bezos nor Amazon had issued statements following the backlash. But the news, and public reactions to it, got us thinking about women entrepreneurs whose businesses and social enterprises are making significant contributions through charitable giving and work.
Our own research has shown that women tend to place purpose over profits when defining the success of their businesses. And while plenty of male entrepreneurs run social enterprises — and there are certainly prominent examples of self-made men giving back to society through history (think Carnegie and Rockefeller) — we have routinely observed women setting up businesses with intentions of “doing good” baked into the company’s mission from the start.
Women — including Bezos’ ex — are also study-proven to be more individually giving. Last May, following their split, Mackenzie Bezos agreed to donate half of her $37-billion fortune to the Giving Pledge, which was started in 2010 by Bill and Melinda Gates and investor Warren Buffett. The campaign encourages the world’s wealthiest people to pledge more than half their wealth to pressing social issues.
“In addition to whatever assets life has nurtured in me, I have a disproportionate amount of money to share,” MacKenzie Bezos wrote in her Giving Pledge letter. “My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time and effort and care. But I won’t wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty.”
Her ex-husband, meanwhile, still hasn’t signed the Giving Pledge either. And his meager donation to Australian wildlife relief efforts isn’t exactly impressing anybody. We’ll never know for sure if gender would have made a difference, of course — but we can perhaps hazard a guess.
Women Making a Difference
In the spirit of giving back, we’re highlighting some women entrepreneurs who are making a difference through their companies and their actions.
Founder, Orion Associates
How She Gives: Thomley’s management services company offers its employees paid time-off to help in charitable efforts — especially disaster relief. In fact, she and her firm are so dedicated to the cause that Thomley helped found the Headwaters Relief Organization, a nonprofit that assists in disaster relief efforts around the world. Thomley believes in the power of this work, noting that when you volunteer, “you have the opportunity to connect with people in a way that might not otherwise be possible.”
How She Gives: Charities receive both funds and goods from Mahaffey’s pajama-making company. She commits at least 20 percent of her company’s annual profits to charities like the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the International Hyperhidrosis Society. And, she donates clean excess products to organizations like the Center for Community Solutions, which helps victims of domestic violence get back on their feet. But, she adds, “there’s still so much I want to do.”
Co-founder, Good Shop
How She Gives: Ramberg and her brother, Ken, launched this socially conscious coupon site with the mission of funneling funds to worthy causes. Users of Goodshop can pick a cause, and then go shopping. “Goodshop receives a percentage of that sale,” she explains. “We donate 50 percent of what we receive to the cause, then the other 50 percent goes to run the company.” As of last April, the Rambergs had raised about $13 million for a variety of causes.
How She Gives: Olutola had always envisioned paying the success of her online fashion business forward. Since 2015, she has been able to do so by donating to Charity Water, which provides clean water for people in developing parts of the world, and a second African charity that provides children with school supplies. When we spoke with her last March, she said she had given more than $15,000 to these causes. “Charity is a big reason that keeps me going and working on the business,” she says.