Michael Bloomberg Takes Another Turn On Big Gifts Wheel

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor, March 3, 2021


The move is another case of the sort of big gifts made in modern philanthropy. They can raise issues about accountability and control, such as how a donor can ensure his or her wishes are enforced over the long term.

Michael Bloomberg, founder of his eponymous media empire and former New York City Mayor, is giving $150 million to Harvard University for a program designed to help mayors worldwide lead their cities more effecively. His donation is an example of the kind of big gifts in philanthropy.

The gift is an extension of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, which Bloomberg launched in 2017 with a $32 million gift. The additional money will go toward hiring 10 professors, building out programs to train mayors at Harvard, and facilitating two-year fellowships for Harvard graduate students in mayoral offices around the world.

“This is a major new investment in the people who have enormous and unique powers to attack society’s biggest challenges: mayors. The pandemic has driven home just how important mayors are to the everyday lives of billions of people. They are the most creative and effective problem-solvers in government – and that’s exactly the kind of leadership that the world urgently needs more [of],” Bloomberg said.

“Building on our partnership with Harvard, this new investment will help more city leaders learn from one another and get even more big things done locally.”

The businessman has made a number of large gifts, notably to John Hopkins University, his alma mater, as well as Cornell University ($100 million) and $100 million to four historically Black medical schools to ease the burden for medical students. (Medicine is an important theme in his philanthropic activity.)

The Bloomberg Center for Cities is a collaboration between Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School. Launched in 2017 with an initial $32 million investment, the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative has provided training and support to 159 mayors and their 800 top advisors from 153 cities.

This news service has written about some of the issues that big gifts bring up, such founders ensuring that their objectives are enforced. See also a story about the trend and the pandemic.

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