May 15, 2008

New Gates Foundation Head: Good News For Philanthropy?

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation should be applauded for selecting Jeffrey S. Raikes as its new head, says Joel J. Orosz in an interview on the Etolutionist blog.

Unlike so many foundation appointees, Mr. Raikes actually has first-hand experience in philanthropy, says Mr. Orosz, a professor at Grand Valley State University.

Sure, Mr. Raikes was a safe choice in the sense that he’s a former Microsoft executive. But Mr. Raikes has also chaired a United Way campaign, participated in a homelessness census, and run a family foundation, Mr. Orosz notes.

“Let’s hope that this move by Gates, the biggest and perhaps the most influential of the world’s foundations, ushers in an era when prior experience in the hard work of giving is considered at least as important an attribute when choosing foundation CEOs as being a university president or a corporate titan,” says Mr. Orosz.

Sean Stannard-Stockton, author of the blog Tactical Philanthropy, weighs in on the Etolutionist blog, which is produced by Social Solutions, a company that provides software and other services for charities and government agencies.

He says the selection is “intriguing because Raikes’ primary career experience is in marketing. The Gates Foundation themselves have stated that they do not have enough money to fix global health. However, the foundation has a global platform to communicate their views to the world and they may find that this ‘marketing platform’ can have a larger impact on the world than their actual grant making.”

What do you think of Mr. Raikes’ selection?