Here's something we'll see a lot more of in coming years: whole areas of philanthropy shaken up when some mega donor decides they care about X issue. This week it was Michael Bloomberg's newfound interest in overfishing.
Yesterday, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a $53 million initiative to fight overfishing and reform fishing practices -- an outlay that instantly catapults the foundation to among the top five funders in the global ocean space.
Mike Bloomberg cares about fishing? Who knew.
Okay, I'm sure that Bloomberg has long been fretting about overfishing. The guy is an information omnivore, and has probably thought about fish a lot given his interest in public health (low-fat protein!) and thought about oceans a lot given his interest in climate change (which is helping kill ocean life).
More than that, though, Bloomberg has always been interested in big problems with grave long-term ramifications, and overfishing definitely meets that criteria. (See Inside Philanthropy's profile of Bloomberg.) As Bloomberg said in the press release for this initiative:
While billions of people depend on fish for food or income, only 13 percent of the world's fisheries are safe from being over-fished, presenting serious environmental and public health challenges. Data shows the world's severely threatened fish populations can rebound if fishing is properly managed.
Billions of hungry people, disappearing healthy food, and -- best of all -- data-driven solutions. Sold to Mike Bloomberg for $53 million.
I predicted a few weeks ago that Bloomberg was going to dramatically ramp up his annual giving in the next few years, to over $1 billion annually -- up from $452 million last year, and putting him with Gates as the biggest philanthropist in the world. To do that, he'll need to not only pump more money into the causes he's long funded -- like global anti-smoking efforts -- but also find some new causes. Clearly, he's been busy doing exactly that.
But back to my bigger point: We are living in an era of game-changing philanthropy, where numerous billionaires are stepping up their giving and suddenly becoming the new 900-pound gorilla in various funding spaces. (Or, as in the case of billionaire Jon Stryker, becoming a leader in efforts to save the real 900-pound gorillas of the world.)
All this means that these are goldrush times for well-placed NGOs. The name of the game is finding uncommitted billionaires and selling them on your cause and organization. Just two nonprofits, Oceana and Rare, are the main grantees for all that new Bloomberg money for overfishing. I'll be interested to know how they managed that -- whether they cultivated Bloomberg or he came to them.
I wouldn't be surprised if Bloomberg came to them, and specifically to the Andy Sharpless, CEO of Oceana, and author of The Perfect Protein: The Fish Lover's Guide to Saving the Oceans and Feeding the World.
Anyone who writes a book called The Perfect Protein sounds like Mike Bloomberg's sort of guy.
This article originally appeared in Inside Philanthropy, a new media site covering the world of foundations and major donors.
See more coverage of giving at Inside Philanthropy.