News and analysis
October 03, 2014

GoPro Founders Give $500-Million to Silicon Valley Community Foundation

Mike Segar/Reuters/Newscom

Nicholas Woodman (center) and Jill Woodman (at right)

The nation’s biggest community foundation just got a lot bigger as Nicholas and Jill Woodman, founders of the GoPro high-tech camera company, on Thursday announced they had donated $500-million to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

This new infusion of money pushes the community foundation’s assets up to just over $6-billion, said Emmett Carson, chief executive of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

The foundation has been growing fast in part because Mark Zuckerberg, and is wife, Priscilla Chan gave the fund stock valued at nearly $1-billion last year, after having donated $500-million in 2012.

The Woodmans said they had transferred about 5.8 million shares of GoPro to the community foundation on Tuesday to start a new donor-advised fund they are calling the Jill + Nicholas Woodman Foundation. The gift caught investors by surprise and drove the GoPro share price down.

Unclear Where Money Will Go

Mr. Carson said the Woodmans have not yet said what causes they will support through their fund, and Mr. Carson declined to discuss details about whether the couple will support local nonprofits.

"The foundation tries to meet donors where they are in fulfilling their charitable interests, whatever they might be," said Mr. Carson. "And they are often overlapping and interconnected charitable interests."

He did, however, say that the needs in Silicon Valley are great and run the gamut from education issues—40 percent of third graders in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties don’t read at a proficient level—to affordable housing, transportation, and environmental issues. But he stressed that the community foundation leaves it up to donors to decide where to direct their philanthropy.

"My own personal feeling is that I applaud philanthropists and donors who care about the human condition, to make it better wherever it occurs," said Mr. Carson. "I would hope that things like the Ebola virus today tell us that just thinking about our own backyard can have devastating consequences if we only think what’s over there is over there and we don’t recognize humanity is interconnected. So I believe donors can be local, national, and global in their interests and concerns, and those things aren’t in conflict. It’s not a zero-sum game."

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