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Young Internet entrepreneurs embrace philanthropy

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter's Biz Stone, Craigslist's Craig Newmark, and many others have turned their entrepreneurial skills to solving the world's social problems.

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Even if the solution is more traditional, the emphasis is on quick results. When Biz Stone, a co-founder of Twitter, set up a charity last year with his wife Livia, they focused on small, local projects to produce results.

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“It feels like we are making an impact,” Mr. Stone says. (See the related article.)

Mr. Stone’s personal charity complements the work he did at Twitter to support social causes. He helped set up the “Hope140” page to feature charities’ use of the site and sold a Twitter-theme wine called “Fledgling” that raised more than $12,000 and brought a lot of attention to Room to Read, a children’s education charity. That work led AOL to appoint him as its social-impact adviser, to help the company assist the communities it serves.

Even the company he runs now, the Obvious Corporation, a relaunch of the technology company that popularized Twitter, seeks to create “systems that help people work together to improve the world.”

“When you align your company with meaning, you attract more sophisticated consumers, you attract more talented employees,” Mr. Stone says.

Many tech entrepreneurs share Mr. Stone’s view and include philanthropy in their businesses.

The Craigslist Foundation focuses on connecting people and training nonprofit leaders through programs like its annual Bootcamp conference.

Mr. Benioff used what he calls a “1/1/1 model” at the beginning of Salesforce.com, a company that provides databases that help companies and charities keep track of clients and donors. He set aside 1 percent of the company’s equity, products, and time to charitable causes through the Salesforce.com Foundation.

That foundation has given more than $24.2 million to charity and recently announced it would match donations to College Track – the foundation co-founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, wife of late Apple founder Steve Jobs – up to $500,000.

It has also offered its software to 11,525 nonprofits free or at discounted rates, and employees have volunteered at least 265,681 hours.

The program gives employees six days a year of paid volunteer time and matches grants of up to $1,000 to the charities employees support.

That’s a big draw for talent, says Barbara Kibbe, the foundation’s chief operating officer who explains the foundation’s services during new-employee orientation.

“The people in the room are essentially thrilled,” Ms. Kibbe said.

Giving name recognition

Many Internet entrepreneurs see their work with nonprofits as central to their philanthropy.

“Philanthropy isn’t just about big gifts; it’s about participation,” Mr. Benioff says.

While Mr. Benioff and his wife once gave to a wide number of nonprofits anonymously, they now focus on one organization that these days bears their name: the University of California at San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital. They gave $100 million to the hospital for a new building because of research breakthroughs at the hospital and concerns about lack of facilities in the region.

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