What Craig Newmark Can Teach Entrepreneurs About Philanthropy

The best measure of wealth is what you give back.

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By John Boitnott

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Craig Newmark founded Craigslist in 1995 and was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2012. To date, Craigslist users have posted over five billion classified ads through the platform. Newmark was born in Morristown, New Jersey, and lives in San Francisco.

A self-made billionaire, Newmark founded Craig Newmark Philanthropies in 2016. This private foundation has since made substantial donations supporting causes such as journalism, veterans, and more.

Newmark can clearly teach us a lot about starting up a business and handling success. However, maybe the most important lessons that entrepreneurs can learn from him are about philanthropy. Though his foundation is only a few years old, Newmark's strategic donations have already significantly benefited various causes. All entrepreneurs can learn from his example.

Related: My Top 10 List: Online Entrepreneur Craig Newmark

Define and support your values.

Know what you stand for and then stand behind those values, no matter what others say. Craig Newmark Philanthropies clearly identifies its four priorities: trustworthy journalism, voter protection, women in technology, and veterans and military families.

Newmark's donations support those values. In 2017 he teamed with various organizations, including Facebook, to fight fake news. In 2018, Newmark donated $1 million to Mother Jones magazine. He gave $1 million to STEM programs and donated $20 million to CUNY's journalism school. Newmark also gave $15 million to two journalism programs. He demonstrates focus and passion for his values through targeted philanthropy.

It's so important to find causes that you're passionate about. Not only will it feel more rewarding to donate to causes you have a personal connection with, but you'll also feel more motivated in your philanthropic work. If you focus on just a few issues that truly matter to you, you can use your philanthropy to make a larger difference in those issues.

Related: Online Entrepreneur Craig Newmark on Charity, Collaboration and Being Cranky

Partner with good people.

Not only do you need to surround yourself with good people when it comes to your business, but it's equally important to find good people who can help you with your philanthropic work.

For instance, Jason Yurasek brings over 20 years of experience to his role as general counsel, officer, and director of Craig Newmark Philanthropies. Yurasek helps clients through challenging issues and even offers up his pro bono legal services to children and to those who have been wrongfully convicted. His generosity with his time mirrors Newmark's generosity. Therefore, Yurasek's expertise and experience strengthen the foundation's operations.

From your board of directors to your financial advisor, mission-driven and trustworthy people can help guide you and support you in your philanthropy. Finding the right people may take some time. But, once you find those who believe in your cause, your work will be more powerful.

Be generous with your time and knowledge.

Newmark does more than just donate to causes he believes in. He helps guide other nonprofits working in those fields, too. He's on the Board of Directors for nearly a dozen nonprofits. This includes the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, Girls Who Code, Vets In Tech, the News Integrity Initiative, and more. Newmark serves on the Advisory Board for 18 other nonprofits.

Time is our most valuable resource, and Newmark sets an example to be generous with it. As an entrepreneur, you already possess skills and experience highly valuable to nonprofits. Therefore, agreeing to serve on boards or act as an advisor can help those nonprofits do more work with what funding they have. Even if you aren't yet in a position to make a sizable donation, volunteer your skills and expertise. It can still help nonprofits achieve their missions and provide valuable work to causes you care about.

If you do plan to establish a foundation of your own, you'll need to recruit qualified people for your board who can provide insight and guidance. Serving on boards for their nonprofits is one way you can give back in return.

Related: Craigslist Founder Launches a New Site to Connect Nonprofits

Find a connection with your business.

Identifying a connection between your philanthropy and your business can create synchronicity that makes them both more powerful. Newmark was criticized for creating and running Craigslist because many people believed the site took advertising away from traditional media.

But Newmark ultimately supported the very industry he was criticized for harming. His philanthropic support has an immediate connection to the business on whose success his foundation was built. He's frequently spoken about the importance of journalism and has made multiple significant donations to the cause.

Newmark's actions also demonstrate the importance of believing in the work you do and not letting negative critiques by others stop your determination to make a difference in the world. Craigslist may have negatively affected traditional media advertising, but Newmark has proven himself to be a staunch supporter of journalism.

Be generous.

Entrepreneurs are often focused on building their businesses or acquiring wealth. But, one of the most important lessons we can learn from Newmark is to be generous. Success isn't just based on your bank account, and you can find joy in the act of giving.

Newmark summed up the importance of philanthropy during an interview with The Jewish News of Northern California. "You need to know when enough is enough, regarding money and material possessions," he said. "You don't have to have that much to be happy."

When you enjoy your hard-earned success as an entrepreneur, remember you also have the power to positively affect the world. Newmark's philanthropy is a valuable example of how we can all identify causes we personally connect with, surround ourselves with the right people, and give generously. With enough determined entrepreneurs, who knows what changes we might see in the world?

John Boitnott

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Journalist, Digital Media Consultant and Investor

John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.

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