Many successful entrepreneurs have used their success as an opportunity to do some good in the world. These icons have gone beyond simply donating money and time; they’ve created truly innovative ways to help others.

1. Pierre Omdiyar

Omidiyar founded eBay in 1995, but beyond his work with the online auction giant, he’s also revolutionized the world of giving. With the Omidyar Network, he invests in non-profit and for-profit initiatives that have the potential to have large-scale, world-changing impact. In doing so, Omidyar brings something new to philanthropy: a sense of how market forces and an investor’s perspective can drive social change.

2. Mark Benioff

Benioff is the founder and CEO of cloud computing company Salesforce.com, but he’s also the founder of the Salesforce.com Foundation, through which he advances his unique philanthropic philosophy. Benioff calls his approach to philanthropy the "1-1-1 model." Through this model, Benioff encourages companies to contribute 1% of their product, 1% of their equity, and 1% of their employee hours back to the communities in which they operate. Benioff’s model builds philanthropic ideals right into a business’ fiscal strategy. The Salesforce.com foundation has used the 1-1-1 model to contribute to hospitals and organizations devoted to children’s health in the San Francisco area, and the model has been adopted by many other companies.

3. Bill Gates

Today, the former Microsoft Chair and his wife, Melinda, devote much of their time to running the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private foundation in the world. The Gates Foundation has forged high-profile partnerships with the likes of Hilary Clinton, and one of its biggest donors is another famed philanthropic entrepreneur--Warren Buffett. The mission of the Gates Foundation is to reduce poverty, and expand access to health care, education, and technology. In addition to funding basic health services like vaccines and sanitation in sub-Saharan Africa, the Gates Foundation promotes medical innovation through their Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative, which funds researchers to develop new and more accessible treatments and disease-prevention measures--including, for instance, an initiative to invent a next-generation HIV-preventing condom.

4. Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie is the grand-daddy of philanthropic entrepreneurialism. He was active in the 19th century, but many of today’s charitable entrepreneurs are still following in his footsteps--from Gates and Buffett, to Benioff and Omidyar, to Facebook founders-turned-philanthropists Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker. Carnegie’s fortune came from his involvement in expanding the U.S. steel industry. Not content to rest on his success, he devoted the last few years of his life to philanthropy. He funded the construction of public libraries across North America and around the world, many of which still stand today, and was devoted to the idea of free libraries that served the public--an innovative notion in its time! He also funded educational causes, including the Tuskegee Institute, that provided education for African Americans. By funding education and literacy, Carnegie paved the way for future innovation.

Don’t let the size of these philanthropic endeavors intimidate you; with organizations like Kiva and Crowdrise even a micro-business can give back.

Published on: Aug 25, 2015