How would you give back if you had $80 billion — plus or minus a few billion?
That’s the question Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos just asked his Twitter followers.
“This tweet is a request for ideas,” he wrote on Thursday. “I’m thinking of a philanthropy strategy that is the opposite of how I mostly spend my time — working on the long term.”
The request comes as Bezos is on the cusp of overtaking Microsoft founder Bill Gates to become the world’s richest person. Over the years, Gates and his wife have built up a massive philanthropic foundation to help eradicate diseases, boost education and more.
Bezos, on the other hand, has been more focused on what he describes in the tweet as “long term” investments that “are contributing to society and civilization in their own ways.”
These include his efforts at Amazon as well using his considerable personal resources to buy The Washington Post and fund his own space company called Blue Origin.
At one public event last October, Bezos was asked if he planned to pursue philanthropy in the mold of Gates. His response: “Yeah, if there’s anything left after I finish building Blue Origin.”
Now Bezos appears to be rethinking his approach.
“I’m thinking I want much of my philanthropic activity to be helping people in the here and now — short term — at the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact,” he wrote.
As an example, Bezos cited Mary’s Place, a Seattle charity working to empower homeless families. Amazon partnered with the nonprofit to build a homeless shelter in its headquarters.
Suggestions quickly poured in on Twitter. His followers recommended he fund clean drinking water, affordable housing and refugee assistance. Some suggested he buy up peoples’ medical or student loan debts.
Others simply asked Bezos to give them a few bucks.