Many publications consider Alex Honnold the best rock climber in the United States. He is globally recognized for being on the cover of National Geographic. Alex took the stage as the keynote speaker next to Al Madrigal from The Daily Show at the annual Trail Blazers Ball held by the Sierra Club in San Francisco.

After his speech, the room became an auction. A few hundred people in formal attire start raising their paddles and bidding large amounts of money over neckties, wine, rock climbing lessons and more.

I originally headed up to San Francisco to participate at the Growth Marketing Conference, but my friend Clayton Wood insisted on watching this auction that was happening a few blocks away. So we went, and sat next to people who were ready to give hundreds of thousands of dollars away to charity.

The entire gala raised over $350,000, which goes to help promote climate solutions, clean energy, environmental conservation and mobilizing people across the country to support these efforts and lend their voices to cry to preserve the planet.

For me, it brought up a pretty interesting question. Where does all the money from the tech, banking and business community go in San Francisco?

Charity first

It's no secret in the Bay Area that everyone is innovating, scaling and pivoting with one main focus in mind: profit. Once that's taken care of, and the tech elite have the nest egg tucked away, what do they do with all that disposable income?

It turns out that a lot of them are taking a lesson from Bill Gates and are heavily active in philanthropy.

Where the money goes

Gala season is in full swing right now in Silicon Valley. At any given time, there are 10-25 galas per week in the area. With the area's stellar reputation for sponsoring causes, it's no surprise that the people working in the industry have it down to a science.

Tech entrepreneurs donated over 100 million dollars in the area last year, and thousands of people work in philanthropy, proving that this is by far the coolest thing to do if you're a tech millionaire.

So where do the tech elite give, and how much do they give?

 

1. Pixar Annual Gala

Hosted by Laurene Powell Jobs's Emerson Collective, this gala in support of College Track happens once a year and has a reputation for raising over $1.9mm in an hour.

And that doesn't include corporate and individual sponsorships which range from $100-$250k. If you're an elite type of giver, this is a popular place to do it.

Silicon Valley Angel Ron Conway, Tim Cook, Apple CDO Sir Johnny Ive, Sean Parker, Former CFO of Dropbox and founder of Witt Capital Sujay Jaswa donate here.

2. Build Gala

This event has a slew of Tech giants in the room as Build's program support entrepreneurship in high schools. They raise between $1.4-$1.7mm each year at their San Francisco Gala in the Live Auction & Paddle Raise.

Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, Pinterest CEO Ben Silberman, GoPro founder Nick Woodman, Marisa Mayer and the San Francisco 49ers owner Brian Pokorney all donate here.

3. Tipping Point

This hot gala raises $13-$14.5mm per year towards ending homelessness in San Francisco. BizBash ranks this event as one of the top fundraising events in the country.

Charles Schwab, Nick Woodman, Sir Johnny Ive, Zynga founder Mark Pincus and One Kings Lane founder Ali Pincus all attend and donate here.

4. No Guns Allowed

A Pet Project of Ron Conway in association with Snoop Dogg -- Ron Conway, Brian Pokorny SV Angel and former CEO of DailyBooth all take part. The fun happens here because Snoop is around.

5. American India Foundation

This is a national organization with chapters in most major cities. The San Francisco Gala which just celebrated its 13th Gala had over 700 people in attendance and raised $1.5mm in a single evening. This one is popular among the Indian tech elite and is a hot ticket for tech millionaires to donate money.

Between this small group of fundraisers, the inner circle of tech gods give away more than $20M per year. The biggest beneficiaries of all these donations? Local Bay Area education, entrepreneurship programs, technology, medicine and poverty.

What was even more interesting is the format in which it's given away. Abra Annes, a new style auctioneer, fluid in tech and friendly with Bay Area leaders is entertainment in her own right.

She knows exactly where the money in the room is, works those areas, and moves through the crowd, calling people to support the cause -- and it's working. She's raised over $15mm for charities over the last 2 years.

I asked her what the secret is to getting people emotional about their cause.

"The secret comes from asking others to join me. The appeal I give are always authentic, passionate and feel personal to each guests in the room.

People give because they are asked. I always aim to make it feel as if I am asking each person in the room to give along with me. If I can't be passionate about the organization, there is no way that I can inspire others to join me."

If you're looking to become a donor and network with the tech elite, this list should help point you on the right direction. If you've always wondered where the tech elite donate their money, it's no surprise that it stays in the area, and goes towards education.

Do you know of anywhere else where the tech elite spend their money? I'd love to learn more! Comment below.

Published on: May 20, 2016