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Original article here

Author: Simon Thomsen


The three billionaire cofounders of Canva donated $39 million to the foundation in their company’s name over 18 months, with most of that money already given away.

Husband and wife Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obrecht, set up the Canva Foundation with cofounder Cameron Adams in May 2020.


 A month later, the privately-owned design giant Canva doubled in value to $8.7 billion following an $87 million raise. The company is now worth $39 billion and Perkins and Obrecht are among Australia’s top 10 richest people with an estimated $11 billion to their joint names thanks to their 30% stake in the business. Adams has an estimated worth of $3.3 billion.


The duo pledged to give 80% of their fortune away to the Canva Foundation for charitable causes in 2021 and have been busy living up to their word.


Filings lodged with the government regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), this week revealed the trio poured $38.896 million in cash into the Canva Foundation between July 2022 and December 2023, topped up $607,416 in donations in kind.


That figure’s a substantial jump on $14.894 million donated in the 2022 financial year (the Foundation has moved to calendar year reporting with its latest filing).


What’s even more remarkable about that is that while Australia has around 150 billionaires, including the Atlassian and Afterpay cofounders, but Obrecht, 38, Perkins, 37, and Adams, 44, are the nation’s second most generous philanthropists behind Andrew Forrest and his former wife, Nicole, who gave away $224.9 million of their fortune via their own charitable fund, Minderoo.


Melbourne packaging billionaire Anthony Pratt and his family, were just behind the Canva trio in their generosity.


Canva is already an ardent supporter of 1% pledge, the corporate philanthropic movement, co-founded by Atlassian, which encourages and empowers companies of all sizes and stages to donate 1% of their staff time, product, profit, and/or equity to any charity of their choosing.


The Canva Foundation certainly provides bang for its bucks, costing $641,677 to run over the 18 months and giving away $31.639 million over that time.


The vast bulk of that funding, $31.266 went offshore, alongside grants and donations worth $372,478 made in Australia.


We continue to scale our support for local communities in the form of local projects and volunteering,” the Canva Foundation report says.


“During this reporting period, the Canva Foundation provided more than $164,000 to nonprofit partners to support their local goals and amplify their impact. As part of our local efforts, this year also marked the launch of a pilot Community Project in the form of a $110,000 donation to Orange Sky Laundry to create a safe, personalised, and welcoming environment for those experiencing homelessness across Sydney, Australia.”


Perkins laid out their philanthropic ambitions clearly three years ago as part of Canva’s elegantly simple  “Two-Step plan: Step 1: ‘Become one of the most valuable companies in the world’; and Step 2: ‘Do the most good we can’.”


“”It has never felt like our money, we’ve always felt that we’re purely custodians of it. As we’ve previously shared, it’s long been our intention to give the wealth away, and we’ve been thinking long and hard about the best way to start that journey,” Perkins wrote in 2021.


“We wanted to ensure that everyone who is contributing to Canva’s success in Step 1 is able to feel pride in their contribution to Step 2.”


Perkins said Step 1 should fuel Step 2, and in turn Step 2 should fuel Step 1.


“As Canva’s value grows, so too does our ability to have a positive impact on the world. And as we have a positive impact on the world, we believe that Canva will grow too by being able to attract and motivate the best team and our community who care about having a positive impact on the world too,” she said.


“We have this wildly optimistic belief that there is enough money, goodwill, and good intentions in the world to solve most of the world’s problems, and we want to spend our lifetime working towards that. We see the best way to do that is to continue to work towards both Step 1 and 2 Step of our plan: to scale Canva into one of the biggest companies in the world and build an organisation that at its core is focused on being a force for good.”


An initial pilot program in 2022 with GiveDirectly, distributing $10 million in cash to some of the world’s poorest people in Southern Africa, using mobile payments to reach them has blossomed into a further $23 million distributed to more than 64,000 people living in extreme poverty.
As well as several African nations, the Canva Foundation also supports programs in India, Afghanistan, the Middle East, Philippines, Ukraine and the USA.

Donations includes $700,000 in disaster relief for earthquakes in Turkey, Morocco, and Afghanistan, as well as humanitarian aid following floods in Libya and support in Hawaii after deadly wildfires.


The Foundation has also invested  an initial $7.4 million in an education pilot program to improve foundational literacy and numeracy learning in Southern Africa and India.


“Following a period of comprehensive research, this program aims to support our work of uplifting individuals from extreme poverty by addressing early education as a key contributor to the poverty cycle,” the Foundation said in its report.


“The pilot program, in partnership with Prevail, will support more than 400,000 children.”


When Perkins announced their plan give away the vast majority of the billions they’ve made from building Canva in 2021, she said the growth of the business increased their ability to have a positive impact on the world.


“We have this wildly optimistic belief that there is enough money, goodwill, and good intentions in the world to solve most of the world’s problems, and we want to spend our lifetime working towards that,” she said.


For comparison when it comes to wealthy tech titans, author MacKenzie Scott,, who helped create Amazon with her former husband, Jeff Bezos, is worth more than $54 billion and has given away around $26 billion to over 2300 non-profits over the last five years as she details on Yield Giving.


Melinda French Gates, worth around $16.5 billion, recently parted ways with the foundation she established with her former husband, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and has pledged to donate $1.5 billion (US$1bn) over the next two years to women’s causes and gender equity around the world.