March 28, 2013

Tashia and John Morgridge Trade Anonymous Giving for Public Philanthropy

Despite an initial path of anonymity, many philanthropists—like John and Tashia Morgridge—eventually go public.

By: The Bridgespan Group

John and Tashia MorgridgeAll philanthropists must answer important questions about their giving strategy. One of the most important: Should I give publicly or should I give anonymously? Such was the case for John P. Morgridge and his wife, Tashia F. Morgridge, philanthropists whose focus areas include education and the environment.

John, the chairman emeritus of Cisco Systems, and Tashia, an educator and author, had an idyllic childhood growing up in 1950s Wisconsin. It was a background that instilled in them a desire to create opportunities for others. At the beginning of their philanthropy, the two chose the path of anonymous giving. For example, in 1992 the Morgridges formed the Tosa Foundation, a family foundation that was named after their shared Wisconsin high school. It was a name meant to obscure the benefactors' identity. "One of the reasons we named our foundation the Tosa Foundation was [to remain anonymous]," says John.

Then after years of giving, the couple received a very interesting phone call: Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett invited them to dinner in New York City to discuss joining what would become the Giving Pledge. "John and I discussed this a bit and the whole idea of the Giving Pledge is to encourage people to give away at least 50 percent of their material wealth during their lifetimes or in their wills," says Tashia. "And John and I had basically already done that."

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But signing the Giving Pledge meant giving up what was left of their anonymity. "For many years, John and I had tried to be anonymous with our giving and had been semi-successful with that," says Tashia. "But then slowly we began to realize that we were the only ones who thought we were anonymous—because everybody else knew what we were giving."

See a complete archive of Tashia and John Morgridge's videos.

Despite an initial path of anonymity, many philanthropists, like the Morgridges, eventually go public, partly due to being "found out" and partly due to the opportunity going public provides to inspire others. Says John: "We've always felt it was important to stimulate others to be philanthropic." By going public they are living examples of that belief.


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