In Philanthropy: Marc Benioff Donates Land to Combat Hawaii’s Housing Crisis and More

The Salesforce CEO’s combined donation of land and cash will help build new affordable housing developments.

By Alexandra Tremayne-Pengelly • 12/21/23 5:15pm

From a $20 million endowment fund benefiting a New Orleans-based museum to $2.1 billion in yearly donations from MacKenzie Scott, these are some of the most notable developments in the philanthropic world.

Marc Benioff donates land and cash to combat Hawaii’s housing crisis

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff in San Francisco on November 16, 2023. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Tech billionaire Marc Benioff is giving 282 acres to a nonprofit based in Hilo, Hawaii, in an attempt to combat the state’s housing crisis. Located in Waimea on Hawaii Island, the land will be used by the Hawaii Island Community Development Corporation (HICD) to develop affordable housing units.

The nonprofit’s development plans will kick off with a 43-unit affordable housing project. The donation from Benioff, CEO of software company Salesforce, and his wife Lynne will also lead to the creation of community facilities like parks and open space.

In Waimea, 30 percent of the community are renters, with 10 percent paying more than half of their income in rent, according to Keith Kato, HICDC executive director. “That’s scary and simply not sustainable,” said Kato in a statement. “This is a tremendous opportunity to create affordable housing for the community.”

HICD, which has already developed almost 900 affordable housing units on Hawaii Island, isn’t just receiving land from the Benioffs. The gift also includes $7 million to help with site planning and infrastructure development, following a previous $1 million gift to HICD.

Benioff, who has an estimated net worth of $9.5 billion, has long been a prominent philanthropist. In 2010, he put $100 million towards the creation of a new hospital at the University of California, San Francisco. A decade later, the Benioffs pledged $200 million to aid tree planting and environmentally-focused entrepreneurs, a gift matched by a $100 million pledge from Salesforce.

The tech CEO has funneled much of his fortune towards Hawaii, giving more than $100 million to local programs over the past 20 years. His work in the state includes philanthropy supporting public schools,  hospitals and fire safety.

Roger Ogden pledges $20 million to his New Orleans museum

In New Orleans, a real estate developer is giving his namesake museum a $20 million boost. Roger H. Ogden, co-founder of real estate firm Stirling Properties, is endowing a fund that will annually benefit the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in perpetuity.

The fund was established by the Greater New Orleans Foundation, a philanthropic foundation of which Ogden is a board member. “By endowing ‘The Ogden Fund’ at the Greater New Orleans Foundation, Roger’s commitment to the museum will ensure it remains financially strong for the future,” said Andy Kopplin, the foundation’s CEO, in a statement.

The donation comes as the Ogden Museum of Southern Art celebrates its 20th anniversary. An avid art collector, Ogden helped found the institution in 2003 when he donated more than 600 works from the likes of Robert Rauschenberg, Jacqueline Humphries and Thornton Dial. It has since accumulated nearly 5,000 works from other donors and currently holds the largest public collection of Southern art.

“With this gift, we at the Ogden are working to solidify our impact long after we’re gone so that the museum will remain here showing visitors the evolution of arts in the American South,” said Ogden in a statement. In addition to his work with the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the real estate developer has served on the boards of institutions like the New Orleans Museum of Art, Louisiana State Museum, Contemporary Arts Center and LSU Museum of Art.

MacKenzie Scott’s giving for 2023 totals $2.1 billion

Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott has donated a staggering $2.1 billion to hundreds of nonprofits in the past twelve months. She detailed her giving earlier this month on the website for her charitable foundation Yield Giving.

“Excited to call attention to these 360 outstanding organizations, every one of whom could use more allies,” said Scott in the post, adding that she is “inspired by all the ways people work together to offer each other goodwill and support.”

Recipients of Scott’s donations range from Global Fishing Watch, a nonprofit focused on ocean governance, to Clean Slate Initiative, an organization fighting to pass state legislation on record clearance. Scott’s highest individual donations this year were in the $25 million range and went to nonprofits like the affordable housing organization Mercy Housing and the equity-focused Year Up.

In keeping with Scott’s philanthropic focus areas, most of the donations benefited issues like education, health and economic equity. Her giving for 2023 follows $3.8 billion donated by Yield Giving between June 2021 and March of last year to more than 400 different organizations.

Formerly married to Amazon (AMZN)’s Jeff Bezos, Scott has been on a philanthropic spree in the past few years. In total, her foundation has given out more than $16.5 billion to nearly 2,000 nonprofits. As a signee of the Giving Pledge, a philanthropic campaign started by Bill Gates, Melinda French Gates and Warren Buffett, Scott has pledged to give away the majority of her $41.1 billion fortune.

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