Independent Sector has named Jeff Skoll the 2012 recipient of the John W. Gardner Leadership Award. The Washington, D.C.-based organization will present the award at the John W. Gardner Leadership Dinner during its annual conference in November in San Francisco.
Skoll, the first president of eBay, founded the Skoll Foundation in 1999 to support social entrepreneurs. The Palo Alto, Calif., foundation has since distributed more than $315 million to 91 social entrepreneurs and 74 organizations on five continents. It funds social ventures through a combination of grants and program-related investments: loans, guarantees and equity investments at below-market rates.
The philanthropist’s other projects include Participant Media, the production company behind such films as “An Inconvenient Truth,” “The Cove,” “Contagion” and “The Help”; the Skoll Global Threats Fund, which makes grants for organizations combating issues including climate change, pandemics and nuclear proliferation, among others; and the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship, whose 10th annual conference will take place April 10-12, 2013 at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Skoll also took The Giving Pledge, an initiative created by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet that encourages billionaires to give the majority of their wealth to charity.
A meeting with John W. Gardner helped Skoll determine the Skoll Foundation’s focus, he told Independent Sector. Gardner advised Skoll to “bet on good people doing good things.”
Gardner served as President Lyndon Johnson’s Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare from 1965 to 1968, but resigned from the post because he could not support the Vietnam War. He was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964, and created the Washington, D.C. advocacy group Common Cause in 1970. He chaired the organization committee that would create Independent Sector and served as founding chairperson from the organization’s inception in 1980 until 1983. Gardner also was president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He died in 2002 at the age of 89.
The John W. Gardner Leadership Award was created in 1985 to honor Americans in the nonprofit sector whose leadership can be classified as transformational. The recipient of the 2011 award was Bill Drayton, founder and CEO of Ashoka. Past recipients include General Colin Powell and his wife, Alma, for their work with America’s Promise Alliance; Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone, and Susan Berresford, president of the Ford Foundation.