I so admire Jeff and Tricia Raikes. They are terrific philanthropists who live in the Seattle area and I first met them when they where Campaign 2006-2007 Campaign Co-Chairs for United Way of King County, a record-breaking year for the local United Way and also helped to finish the$140 million Gates Challenge Endowment.
As a major gifts fundraiser at United Way, our team worked closely with Jeff and Tricia to meet our annual and endowment goals. They are down to earth, strategic in their approach, and were careful to balance their work, family and volunteer lives.
Jeff grew up in Nebraska, where the family still has a farm. He credits the spirit and ethic of the community as teaching him important tenants of charity. You can see that in their impact giving through the Raikes Foundation. They both were early employees at Microsoft; Tricia was about employee 75 and Jeff came on with employee badge 100 or so. They were also the first couple to meet and marry at Microsoft, as lore has it.
Jeff is also part of a group which owns the Seattle Mariners and he is a real baseball fan. After Jeff left Microsoft in January 2008 after 27 years and in December that same year became the President of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
I attended a luncheon where Jeff Raikes was the speaker and he spoke about how he and Tricia ensure that they are focused and effective philanthropy.
“Tricia and I believe that we should have the largest impact on the greatest inequities in our society – and we see that many of these inequities are caused by a lack of education. Take, for example, the fact that only 70% of our students graduate from high school, and only 30% of those are college-ready (whether for four-year college, two-year college or a trade school).
Jeff talked their giving through the Raikes Foundation. “A core part of effective philanthropy is that we will take on those risky ideas that the government cannot take on and corporations and businesses that are profit-driven will not take on. And because we are taking risks, sometimes we will fail. In fact, we believe that, as philanthropists, you should only be succeeding 50% – 70% of the time. Success 100% of the time is not real. You have to swing for the fences!”
I just love that philosophy of trying and experimenting and sometimes failing fast. Moms Rising talk about the Joyful Funeral. Sometimes one finds that nonprofits can be cautious rather than entrepreneurial in their efforts to solve the identified problem. this fits nicely with Jeff’s belief that “foundations need to drive the short-term momentum and plan for the long-term” to be most helpful.
More on insights I gleaned from Jeff in my next post!