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Meet Canada’s Only Selfless Billionaire

I admit it—I sometimes roll my eyes when I read headlines about a super rich person being charitable. In my mind, it should be a given that those with lots of money (your Bill Gateses, your Warren Buffets) should give a significant portion of their money away. Furthermore, reporting on a super rich person being generous makes it “newsworthy” when I think it should be ordinary. Many Canadians give to charity, regardless of their financial situation (though, it should be noted that we give less than Americans do, according to one study; we give about 0.73% of our income versus the US giving 1.38%). So why shouldn’t someone with a ton of wealth give theirs away without it being national news?

Nonetheless, I was pleased to read a Globe and Mail story this morning about Canadian billionaire Jeffrey Skoll. Skoll is a self-made dot-com billionaire who is, thus far, the only Canadian billionaire to sign on to Gates/Buffet’s The Giving Pledge, which is a call to arms to the superrich to give and give generously. Now, Canada doesn’t have a metric tonne of billionaires to begin with, but it is significant that Skoll is the only one so far.

One thing that really struck me about Skoll’s giving is that it’s targeted not just to help charitable causes—great in and of itself, of course—but he does something called “impact investing,” which combines sound investments with great social causes. He also teaches other wealthy folks to do the same, which means their wealth will go further in helping others. And because this means less overall capital invested by the people involved, it’s attractive to them, too.

The Globe’s piece on Skoll and his background is super fascinating—it’s a real Canadian success story. But the best part is that he is not someone who seeks the limelight. He’s doing his part behind the scenes, which means I’m not going to be rolling my eyes at him anytime soon.

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