Live From AFP: Wozniak Says Do What You Love

March 24, 2014       Patrick Sullivan      

Steve Wozniak, self-admitted ubergeek, loves equations so much he even developed a formula for happiness: H=S-F. Happiness equals the number of smiles minus the number of frowns in your life. His secret to success? Doing what he loves and doing what he’s best at.

Wozniak helped kick off the Association of Fundraising Professionals 51st International Conference on Fundraising in San Antonio, Texas. He gave a brief but wide-ranging talk on the importance of having fun and giving back.

“If you have money and you’re giving it, that’s not a sacrifice,” said Wozniak, co-founder of tech giant Apple and chief scientist at Fusion i-o. “You have to give yourself.” Wozniak’s giving of himself came long after he helped create Apple. He gave computers to schools in his town, and taught students and teachers how to use them to enhance every subject. Wozniak also gave Apple stock to people in the computer club from which the company grew and people who helped along the way.

Ever the trickster, Wozniak regaled the audience with tales of pranks, from high school to college to his professional life. After becoming famous, he went back to University of California Berkeley under an assumed name: Rocky Raccoon Clark. It’s all about having fun, he said. Where politicians dread raising funds, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro said earlier in the general session, AFP members live for it.

It’s also about thinking different, to borrow a phrase from Apple, whether that be raising money for nonprofits or designing computers. Wozniak constantly challenged himself to do more with less. If a program could most efficiently be written in 11 lines of code, Wozniak would figure out a way to do it in six. If a computer was traditionally built with 54 parts at Hewlett-Packard, where Wozniak worked in college, he would build it with 14. That message was not lost on the fundraiser attendees, who year after year are asked to raise more money with smaller budgets.

Like Apple, fundraising is a team effort. Wozniak and co-founder Steve Jobs were a wonderful team, he said. While Wozniak was a brilliant designer, he was an introvert, whereas Jobs could sell anything. Development departments can’t raise funds in a vacuum; they have to have an organization with a mission that resonates and programs that provide solutions behind them.

Finally, he said that technology has its limits. “The raw power of a computer can’t match up to human intuition and intelligence,” said Wozniak. In an age of smartphones and powerful, do-it-all databases, people still give to people.