How I would — and wouldn’t — give away millions

Do's and don'ts for journalism philanthropy


As the next step in her independent career as a philanthropist, Melinda French Gates recently announced a billion dollars in new gifts to help women and girls. It was great to see her give millions of that to my friends at The 19th, but I was particularly struck by an unusual element in French Gates’s announcement: She is giving $20 million each to a dozen leaders in various fields — from filmmaker Ava DuVernay to former New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern — to dispense as they see fit to benefit the larger cause. Maybe someone has done something like this at such a scale before, but, if so, I’ve never heard of it.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about what I would do if someone gave me $20 million to re-gift in aid of American journalism. I don’t think it would be helpful, or even appropriate, for me to name individual grantees (I have too many interests and conflicts), but this week I want to share some ground rules — do’s and don’ts — I think someone with such an enviable task should follow.

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