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Father of Philanthropy in Silicon Valley Dies at 73, Millennials Carry On His Legacy

The leading pioneer of philanthropy in Silicon Valley died from cancer last month at age 73. Peter deCourcy Hero, president of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, was a leader in social change for more than 30 years.

Back in 1998, a study showed that a quarter of households in Silicon Valley with incomes over $100,000 gave only $500 or less to charity each year. The Tech hub has long been known as “the land of the cyber-stingy,” where the thousands of millionaires so skilled at creating unimaginable wealth are so clueless about giving it away.

When Peter Hero arrived in Silicon Valley just 11 years ago, he had a goal — to channel the area’s distinctive culture (demanding, ambitious, creative, daring) into a unique type of charity.

At that time, the Community Foundation had just $9 million in assets. Today, because of Hero, that figure is roughly $625 million. In fact, the foundation gives out about $1 million in grants every week to education programs, neighborhood grounds, social service agencies, and other cultural organizations.

To transform Silicon Valley’s shallow culture into a more generous, socially conscious one, Hero had to figure out a brand new way to sell philanthropy. To have an impact on tech moguls, he had to approach them in terms that they understand. He used his Stanford MBA and former career in corporate advertising to connect with the area’s young tech tycoons.

Hero turned the foundation into a “one-stop service center for new donors.” The key to attracting donors was making philanthropy as easy as possible. Hero went to special lengths to simplify the giving process. Each donor is assigned a foundation staffer who acts like a private banker. Like brokerage analysts research public companies, the foundation provides donors with research on a number of eligible nonprofits. It even assists new donors in developing a philanthropic strategy, urging them to build a portfolio. These are all terms that Silicon Valley tech tycoons understand.

Today, not all young professionals are quite so clueless when it comes to corporate ethics and social responsibility. In fact, according to a 2014 Nielsen survey, millennials are much more responsive to corporate social responsibility (CSR) when it comes to both consumption and employment decisions.

Overall, millennials have proven to be more demanding and more skeptical than previous generations in regards to corporate ethics. They seek out companies that focus on a “triple bottom line:” people, planet, profit. As a result, more and more companies are starting to build CSR into their culture in an attempt to attract the younger generation of employees.

Companies like TCC and Perdue Farms have found that responding to millennials’ need for corporate social responsibility has led to higher employee satisfaction and retention, which is essential since over half (57%) of organizations today view employee turnover as a problem.

Thanks in part to Hero’s hard work, philanthropy and social awareness has become a way of life from the wealthiest parts of the country down to recent college graduates heading into their very first entry-level jobs.

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