Unique among todayʼs leading philanthropists, Mike Bloomberg has run both a multi-billion-dollar company — Bloomberg LP, a technology company he founded in 1981 — and one of the worldʼs largest cities. His entrepreneurial spirit, public-policy experience, and belief in the power of cities to drive solutions to pressing global problems define Bloomberg Philanthropiesʼ approach to making the world a better place.
Bloomberg Philanthropies focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: public health, environment, education, government innovation, and arts & culture. These five areas encompass the issues Mike Bloomberg and his team are most passionate about, and where they believe the greatest good can be achieved. While Bloomberg Philanthropies works on a wide range of issues within each focus area, we apply a distinctive approach to all of our undertakings.
LEADING FROM THE FRONT
Mike Bloomberg has always been attracted to challenges where the potential for controversy or failure keeps others at bay. That approach comes from his entrepreneurial instincts and his belief in leading from the front, regardless of popular opinion or special interest politics. See how we are confronting the coal industry and accelerating the transition to more sustainable energy sources.
SPREADING SOLUTIONS THAT WORK
Spreading effective programs, policies, and strategies to other jurisdictions can accelerate progress on a broad range of issues. For example, our tobacco control initiative focuses on advancing interventions that are proven to help curb tobacco use and save lives. Since we began spreading these effective solutions in 2006, 60 countries have passed comprehensive tobacco control laws, protecting an additional 800 million individuals against the harmful effects of tobacco and saving 4 million lives. Bloomberg Philanthropies applies this approach in all five focus areas, helping to turn proven ideas into widespread solutions, and tailoring them as needed to scale up their impact. Read more about how we are saving millions of lives by spreading solutions proven to curb tobacco use.
“IN GOD WE TRUST; EVERYONE ELSE BRING DATA”
Using data in new ways helped Mike Bloomberg transform the way the financial industry operates by bringing transparency to markets around the world. It also enabled New York City government to leap to the forefront in providing open data and promoting public sector accountability. Bloomberg Philanthropies is committed to harnessing the power of data to assess opportunities, measure progress, and evaluate impact and improve performance. See how we are using data and evidence to improve decision making.
Writing checks isn’t enough to achieve lasting and necessary change. Often, that requires empowering individuals and organizations to advocate for themselves. At Bloomberg Philanthropies, we help organizations be effective advocates in swaying both public opinion and government officials in order to shift policies and advance progress. Learn about how we use advocacy to drive important education reforms throughout the U.S.
The challenges we face in America and around the world are increasingly complex, and neither the private nor the public sector can solve them alone. Public-private partnerships were a hallmark of Mike Bloombergʼs approach as Mayor of New York City. Bloomberg Philanthropies takes a similar approach, bringing together people, ideas and resources from across sectors toward a common purpose and amplifying their impact. Discover how public-private partnerships can be used to support the arts.
The change that happens in cities can change the world. Cities are the global centers of communication, commerce, and culture. And whether it is facilitating the spread of good ideas between cities to help mayors tackle some of their toughest challenges, or leading a global coalition of large cities to take real action against climate change, Bloomberg Philanthropies leverages the power of cities to create lasting change – especially when national and international bodies refuse to act. Find out more about how our efforts to address climate change on a local level are having a global impact.
2019 Annual Letter on Philanthropy by Mike Bloomberg
Will our country and our world be better or worse off two years from now?
I’m an optimist: I always believe that tomorrow will be better than today. But I’m also a realist, and I know that believing and hoping won’t make it so. Doing is what matters.
One of our board members, Walter Isaacson, recently published a biography of Leonardo da Vinci. A half a millennium ago, da Vinci wrote: “I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
Da Vinci was an artist, engineer, mathematician, inventor, scientist, musician, architect, writer – a Renaissance man, sure. But a doer. My kind of guy.
We can’t all have da Vinci’s genius. But we can all learn from his drive and the emphasis he placed on action. That’s a big reason why I first ran for mayor in 2001: I was tired of seeing paralysis where progress was possible, especially on public education. And, ultimately, it’s a big reason why I decided not to spend the next one to two years campaigning to be president of the United States – and, instead, to double down on the work that Bloomberg Philanthropies is already leading.
America and the world face enormous challenges. And it’s safe to say that at least for the next two years, given the leadership vacuum in the White House and partisan gridlock in Congress, the federal government will make virtually no progress in meeting them.
We can’t afford to lose two years. Every day, the window for avoiding the worst impacts of climate change grows smaller. More Americans lose loved ones to opioid overdoses and gun violence. More students miss out on a good education and the opportunity to go to college. And communities that were once home to thriving industries slip further behind in the changing economy. Proposing ideas for 2021 isn’t good enough. We need to get things done in the here and now, and I’m lucky enough to be in a position to help do that.
Of course, philanthropy can’t replace action by the federal government. But it can spur progress from the bottom up – from communities, cities, states, businesses, and nonprofit organizations. Leaders in all of those groups are taking action – and getting things done. Philanthropy can help them do more, faster. And that’s exactly what we will do.
In the year ahead, as political candidates debate what to do in the future, we will work to improve the present by expanding our efforts across all of our major areas of focus.
Climate and Environment
It’s been clear for a long time that we’re in a race against time on climate change. But over the past year, it’s become clearer just how far behind we’ve fallen. The most recent scientific evidence shows that the climate is changing even faster than previously expected, bringing more deadly and destructive storms, wildfires, and droughts. Millions of people around the world have seen that evidence with their own eyes and in their own lives.
Unless we act, we will be much worse off in two years than we are today – with dirtier air and water, more carbon emissions, and diminished chances of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.
We can’t accept that – and so we are ramping up the work we have been leading to end the single biggest global source of air pollution and carbon emissions: coal. Since 2011, working with the Sierra Club, we have helped communities in red and blue states stand up for their right to clean air and water. As a result, over that time, more than half of all U.S. coal-fired power plants have closed or committed to closing. Last year, U.S. coal production fell to a 40-year low – even though Washington is working against us, trying to prop up the coal industry with taxpayer bailouts and eliminating rules that protect the public from toxic pollution.
When we began the Beyond Coal campaign, 13,000 Americans were dying from coal pollution each year. By 2017, that number had fallen to 3,000. That’s good progress, but it’s not enough. So this year, we set a new goal: to close every remaining coal-fired power plant by 2030. It is an ambitious goal, but we can reach it – and we won’t stop there.
Recently, I announced a new campaign, called Beyond Carbon. Our aim is to end America’s dependence on gas and oil as soon as possible and accelerate our transition to a 100 percent clean energy economy.
To do that, we’ll employ and expand the same types of legal, advocacy, and electoral strategies that have proven so successful in the Beyond Coal campaign – supporting governors who are committed to 100 percent clean energy, helping activists demand that elected officials stop kicking the can down the road, and building a coordinated, nationwide grassroots army to get results and win elections. We will also continue to support mayors who are leading by example. Last year, we challenged the 100 most populous U.S. cities to propose bold plans for cutting carbon emissions and are working with the 25 winners to put those plans in motion.
With cities and states leading the way, we will be better off in two years than we are today – with cleaner air, cleaner power, more good green jobs, and lower carbon emissions.
Beyond Carbon will also apply lessons we have learned tackling another issue that Washington has ignored: gun violence.
The vast majority of Americans – including the majority of gun owners – favor common-sense rules that prevent guns from falling into dangerous hands. But Congress has not passed one major gun safety bill in a quarter century. Each year, around 36,000 Americans are killed or commit suicide with guns and another 100,000 are injured. Without more progress in states and cities, the next two years will bring more violence, more heartbreak, and more promising lives cut short.
Americans are proving that a different future is possible. Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action have organized millions of volunteers to successfully push state legislatures to pass bills, governors to take executive action, and CEOs to set higher corporate responsibility standards. More than 20 states have passed laws strengthening background checks for gun sales. In last year’s midterm elections, we supported candidates who promised to pass common-sense gun safety measures – and voters elected more of them to office than ever before. At the same time, we are helping cities advance and defend local laws that prevent gun violence.
With Americans stepping up to lead, more cities and states will pass common-sense gun measures that protect people, and we will be better off in two years than we are today – with safer communities, fewer senseless tragedies, and fewer guns in dangerous hands.
Gun violence isn’t the only deadly crisis that the federal government is failing to address. In 2017, more than 47,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses. That’s more than died in car crashes. We’ve heard a lot of talk from Washington, but the federal government has not provided adequate funding to address the epidemic or the breadth of services needed to help people who are addicted. Meanwhile, the epidemic continues to get worse. Without leadership from beyond Washington, we will be worse off in two years than we are today – with more people dying from overdoses, and more families and communities torn apart by addiction.
Fortunately, states are leading where Washington won’t, and we are helping them. In two of the states hit hardest – Pennsylvania and Michigan – we are bringing people together to attack the opioid epidemic with proven strategies that can have an immediate impact and save a lot of lives. That includes expanding access to medications that can reverse an overdose; expanding access to medically assisted treatment, including in jails and prisons; and fighting stigma and misunderstanding around buprenorphine and other drugs that are used for treatment.
The opioid epidemic touches Americans in every community and all walks of life. Addressing it requires cooperation from across society and among everyone working on the front lines: doctors, educators, law enforcement, first responders, teachers, social workers, elected officials, survivors. Our approach empowers each of these groups to take bolder action and share their resources and expertise to help spur progress and save lives. We hope to create a blueprint that other states can learn from and put into action. If they do, we can begin turning the tide on this epidemic and provide a model for the next Congress and president to adopt.
I recently announced a $1.8 billion gift to my alma mater, Johns Hopkins, for financial aid. It will ensure that admissions are permanently need-blind, so that the school never again has to consider an applicant’s ability to pay before accepting them. But Hopkins, a private university, is just one school.
At many top U.S. colleges, more students come from the top 1 percent of the income scale than from the entire bottom 60 percent. Meanwhile, support for public colleges and universities is falling, even as the importance of a college education has grown. Since 2008, state funding for public two- and four-year colleges has declined by more than $7 billion. That has made going to college less affordable and less accessible to students from lower-income families.
The need for greater economic diversity on college campuses is a national challenge that philanthropy alone can’t fix, but we can make a serious dent in it and start a wave of change that spreads to schools across the country.
Our foundation leads an effort, called the American Talent Initiative, that brings together 120 colleges and universities that are committed to enrolling and graduating more high-achieving students from low- and middle-income families. Since we began, an additional 7,300 low-income students have enrolled in those schools, compared with the two years before the program started. Through our CollegePoint program, we have also helped more than 53,000 low- and middle-income students navigate the college application process, including financial aid, by connecting them to virtual counselors.
At the same time, too many students are robbed of the chance to go to college by failing public schools. We’re working with a variety of partners to change that. We support efforts to help former educators get elected to school boards and other public offices. We’re helping parents advocate for better schools that prepare kids for success. And we support government leaders who are working to challenge the status quo through policies that raise standards and improve accountability.
Not every young person will go to college, and there are many good jobs in growing industries that require more than a high school education but not a four-year college degree. In cities including Denver and New Orleans, we support programs connecting high school students with apprenticeships in growing industries. In Baltimore, we are working with local businesses to train students in new skills that employers need.
We need states and the federal government to provide more support to programs like these and reinvent career and technical education. That is unlikely to happen over the next two years, and again, we can’t afford to wait.
Supporting Local Leaders
There are many more issues that the White House and Congress are failing to address, and where chances of progress over the next two years are slim, at best. That’s why we brought the most recent round of the Mayors Challenge back to the United States, after competitions in Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean. We invited U.S. mayors to propose ideas for civic programs that, if successful, can be copied around the country. Winning cities are implementing bold new programs to fight inequality, improve air quality, remove barriers to employment for the formerly incarcerated, expand access to affordable housing, and much more. In each of these areas, we’re supporting mayors’ efforts to engage and empower citizens to participate in creating new policies.
The country cannot afford to sit back and watch problems grow worse over the next two years as we wait in hope for new and better leadership. To help fill the void, we will continue to expand our work with local leaders who are committed to bold experimentation – and to listening to and acting closely together with the public.
We’ll do this through programs like the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership executive training program, which strengthens mayors’ ability to lead and manage their cities. Through our Public Art Challenge, we’re supporting cities that are employing creativity to bring attention to important issues – and bring new vitality to their communities. And through Bloomberg Associates, we are helping mayors tackle complex problems by bringing people together, sharing best practices, and building public support for new initiatives.
Mayors understand what da Vinci called “the urgency of doing.” Not every new idea will work. But there is no progress without innovation, and no innovation without experimentation. Cities have long been centers of new ideas – and supporting them is one of the most important things we can do to spur progress in the face of federal inaction.
It is no coincidence that da Vinci hailed from the most vibrant city of his time. Fifteenth-century Florence was the birthplace of the Renaissance. The city’s embrace of trade, support for the arts, and respect for science and reason helped to fuel an unprecedented era of human knowledge and progress.
Today, cities can help usher in a new renaissance – led by citizens, inspired by our common goals, driven by data and science, and propelled by creativity and innovation. Trying to bring change to Washington in 2021 is important, but it’s not enough. We must do – now.
About Mike Bloomberg
Michael R. Bloomberg is an entrepreneur and three-term Mayor of New York City whose innovations in government and philanthropy have made him a global leader on climate change, public health, education, and other critical issues facing America and the world.
Born in Boston on February 14, 1942 and raised in a middle class home in Medford, Massachusetts, Michael Bloomberg attended Johns Hopkins University, where he paid his tuition by taking out loans and working as a parking lot attendant. After college, he attended Harvard Business School and in 1966 was hired by a Wall Street firm, Salomon Brothers, for an entry-level job.
Bloomberg quickly rose through the ranks at Salomon, overseeing equity trading and sales before heading up the firm’s information systems. When Salomon was acquired in 1981, he was let go from the firm. With a vision of an information technology company that would bring transparency and efficiency to the buying and selling of financial securities, he launched a small startup in a one room office. Today, Bloomberg LP is a global company that employs nearly 20,000 people in 176 locations in 120 countries.
During his tenure as mayor, from 2002 through 2013, Bloomberg brought his innovation-driven approach to city government. He turned around a broken public school system by raising standards and holding schools accountable for success. He spurred economic growth and record levels of job creation by revitalizing old industrial areas, spurring entrepreneurship, supporting small businesses, and strengthening key industries, including new media, film and television, bio-science, technology, and tourism. Mayor Bloomberg’s economic policies helped New York City experience record-levels of private-sector job growth often in formerly depressed neighborhoods, even in the wake of the deep national recession.
His passion for public health led to ambitious new strategies that became national models, including a ban on smoking in all indoor workplaces, as well as at parks and beaches. Life expectancy grew by 36 months during Mayor Bloomberg’s twelve years in office. He launched cutting-edge anti-poverty efforts, including the Young Men’s Initiative and the Center for Economic Opportunity, whose ground-breaking programs have been replicated across the country. As a result, New York City’s welfare rolls fell 25 percent, and New York was the only big city in the country not to experience an increase in poverty between the 2000 Census and 2012. He also created innovative plans to fight climate change and promote sustainable development, which helped cut the city’s carbon footprint by 14 percent. His belief that America’s mayors and business leaders can help effect change in Washington led him to launch national coalitions to promote gun safety, reform immigration, and invest in infrastructure. He was a strong champion of the city’s cultural community, expanding support for artists and arts organizations and helping to bring more than 500 permanent public art commissions to all five boroughs.
Upon leaving City Hall, Michael Bloomberg returned to the company he founded while also devoting more time to philanthropy, which has been a top priority for him throughout his career. Today, Bloomberg Philanthropies employs a unique data-driven approach to global change that grows out of his experiences as an entrepreneur and mayor. In addition to Bloomberg Philanthropies’ five areas of focus – public health, arts and culture, the environment, education, and government innovation – Bloomberg continues to support projects of great importance to him, including his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University. He served as chairman of the board of trustees from 1996-2001, and the university’s School of Hygiene and Public Health is named the Bloomberg School of Public Health in recognition of his commitment and support. Bloomberg has donated more than $9.5 billion to a wide variety of causes and organizations, including $1.8 billion to allow Johns Hopkins to permanently accept and enroll students without regard to their ability to pay – the largest gift in the history of American higher education.
As chair of the C40 Climate Leadership Group from 2010 to 2013, Bloomberg drew international attention to cities’ leading role in the fight against climate change, and has served as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Action, charged with galvanizing the efforts of local and regional governments, businesses, and civil society. Bloomberg served as the World Health Organization’s Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries, supporting the organization’s push to achieve UN goals of reducing premature NCD deaths by one-third by 2030 and halving the number of road deaths and injuries by 2020. He is also co-author, with Carl Pope, of the 2017 New York Times bestselling book Climate of Hope How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet.
Michael Bloomberg is the father of two daughters, Emma and Georgina.
To date, Mike has donated $9.5 billion to a wide variety of causes and organizations. In 2019, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $3.3 billion.
Learn more about what Bloomberg is doing at https://annualreport.bloomberg.org
- : Bloomberg Philanthropies