Bob and Renee Parsons
Bob and Renee Parsons
Amount donated: In excess of $90m
Philanthropic Causes: Youth development, homelessness, education, medical care, veterans needs, disaster relief in Haiti
Region of philanthropic focus: Arizona
Net Worth: £1.5bn ($2.2bn) according to Forbes, April 2016
Source of wealth: IT, marketing, retail, real estate
Take a name from Forbes’ 400 wealthiest people in the world 2014, note their joining of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge – which commits them to giving away at least half of their wealth – and consider that 72% of the money they donate stays in their home State. This points to a sizable amount of money filtering into a concentrated area of charity, the recipient State being Arizona and the contributors being Bob and Renee Parsons. The couple set up their foundation in 2012 and have since been providing for all kinds of disadvantaged communities and non-profit organisations, predominantly in the Greater Phoenix area. With a new found freedom following some major lifestyle decisions, they continue to expand their research, and use their foundation as a platform for locally-focused philanthropy. But it hasn’t always been this straightforward.
Born in Baltimore into a family that constantly struggled financially, Bob Parsons accumulated his billions from scratch. In his own words: “I’ve earned everything I’ve ever received. I’ve been working as long as I remember, whether it was delivering or selling newspapers, pumping gas, working in construction, or in a factory.” To make matters worse he failed fifth grade in school and ended up as a rifleman in Vietnam in 1969, after being enlisted into the US Marine Corps. He was wounded during conflict and ended up spending two months in a naval hospital after being evacuated.
Things started to turn around for Parsons however, beginning with his accounting degree in 1975 From the University of Baltimore, thus opening the door for a prosperous career in IT and software sales. His DIY approach saw him start up Parsons Technology in 1984, which he operated from the seclusion of his own basement. With the growing success the company’s accounting program MoneyCounts he was able to expand it into a privately held, 1,000-employee company, and sold it to Intuit Inc. in 1994 for $64m.
Parson’s real money spinner however was his GoDaddy group, a web hosting and domain name registrar that he founded in 1997. He sold approximately 70% of the group in 2011 and traded in his position as CEO, firstly for Executive Chairman, and three years later for a more comfortable seat on the board. He remains GoDaddy’s largest shareholder, but now has more time to dedicate to his charitable pursuits with wife Renee.
In 2012, Bob and Renee set up two Organisations, One being YAM Worldwide Inc, which entertains their myriad entrepenurial exploits, from real estate to motor sports and golf (namely high-end golf club manufacturers Parsons Xtreme Golf), the other being The Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation (TBRPF), which is their philanthropic arm.
The foundation has donated more than $80m so far to charities in the Greater Phoenix area and beyond, including Haiti – following its 2010 earthquake. The foundation’s official website states: “The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation is committed to the people of Haiti, helping to grow and improve schools, medical services and overall well-being for communities in rural Haiti through the organization.” Aside from Haiti, other significant donations have included The South West Center for HIV/AIDS, homeless shelter provider UMOM New Day Centers and the Semper Fi Foundation for severely wounded veterans. TBRPF continues to seek out new pledges and encourages local non-profit charity organisations to contact them via their website. Bob and Renee Parsons are spreading altruism throughout Arizona.