It is a characteristically direct comment. “I think it’s a bit ironic how much praise philanthropists get because I think it’s a privilege to have this kind of wealth; and my guess is if most of society had this kind of wealth, they’d get involved in philanthropy. Because what else are you going to do with it – roll around in your coffin with it?”
So say Stanley and Fiona Druckenmiller. They are a couple unlike any other in philanthropy. While they mostly shun publicity, they are not shy about taking risks or giving lavishly, and they have no problem doing one thing that most billionaires never need to do – asking others for money. Their giving, their motivation, and their leadership has made the Druckenmillers one of the most lauded philanthropic couples in the world, and while they mostly stay out of the spotlight, their good works speak volumes.
Both Stanley and Fiona have had extraordinary success in the world of finance. For years Stanley worked for George Soros, one of the first recipients of the Medal of Philanthropy. In fact, Soros sought out Stanley’s help so that he could focus more on the philanthropy side of his life and less on the business. Clearly this made an impact on the Druckenmillers, and soon they too were putting a significant amount of their time and resources into giving.
Recognizing that their success came thanks to their access to quality schooling, much of their philanthropy has focused on providing opportunities for education. And like any good investor, they keep a certain amount of variety in the organizations they fund within the education sector. Along with giving out college scholarships, they have provided significant funds to programs like Teach for America and College Summit, an organization whose mission is to increase college enrolment rates in low-income communities. What they are most known for, however, is their involvement with Harlem Children’s Zone, the community organization providing education, social and health programs for at-risk children and their families. Stanley has had a significant hand in building up the organization, and has sat as the Chairman on the board of trustees for many years. The success of the organization has an impact that money cannot buy – hundreds of other organizations are springing up around the world, inspired by the work the Harlem Children’s Zone does in New York.
Recently, the Druckenmillers have sought to have an even bigger impact on childhood poverty, and that has put them in the unique position of asking other billionaires to chip in too. By pooling money with other wealthy philanthropists, the Druckenmillers are looking to Blue Meridian Partners, a philanthropic fund, to help decide the best and most effective way to use the money. Putting both money and brains together, they hope to identify the best nonprofit organizations working in childhood poverty, and provide them with the resources they need to thrive.
Stanley and Fiona might avoid the spotlight, nevertheless, their commitment to education is one of the most notable stories in philanthropy. And if the Druckenmillers are behind it, bet on success – that’s where the good money is.