Australian Philanthropist in 25 Best Givers List

Little known Australian Philanthropist and Former Microsoft marketing director John Woods and his charity Room to Read has been named in the US Barron’s magazine list of the 25 Best Givers list - ranking 11th out of 25 worldwide philanthropists!

The list ranks Wood above Bill and Hillary Clinton, Jimmy Carter, George Soros, Peter and Jennifer Buffett, Brad Pitt and "Magic" Johnson.

Wood says the inclusion is truly humbling. But, he says to be included in the list along with his funders and friends Jeff Skoll and Bill and Melinda Gates was the icing on the cake!

This list was compiled by Barron’s, in collaboration with the Global Philanthropy Group, to highlight the “best of the best” and most effective charities when people are looking for the greatest “bang for their buck.”

The magazine described the little known John Wood as the Low-Budget Philanthropist.

It says unlike many of the other names on the list, Wood wasn't a billionaire or even a wealthy millionaire when he stumbled into the world of philanthropy while on a trekking trip to Nepal. He founded Room to Read after deciding to pursue his passion to stock school libraries in Nepal and other poverty-stricken nations as only a hobby.

Barron's reporter Suzanne McGee suggests that with the recession squeezing donors and charities alike, it's more important than ever to make sure your giving really makes a difference.

Barron's described those on the list as "high-impact giving" organisations that takes care with each dollar invested.

Barron's says while rankings in other publications highlight those who give the most money, it chose to focus on those who are getting the results and that some of the findings will surprise.

It says who would imagine, for instance, that a targeted effort to alleviate the worst poverty in a single country, Ethiopia, could end up having a greater impact than the massive $34 billion Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and its myriad education and health programs worldwide?

Barrons says by its standards, the Ethiopian initiative, launched by Donna and Philip Berber, wins by dint of immediacy because it could take a decade for some of the Gates Foundation's research into vaccines to translate into an impact on people's lives.

By contrast, it says when the Berber's Glimmer of Hope digs a well and provides clean water to an Ethiopian Community, people's lives are improved immediately and critically.

It concludes however that if even some of the Gates' long-term initiatives bear fruit, the foundation would tower over all other philanthropic efforts in terms of impact. But for now, it rates it No. 7.

Global Philanthropy Group and Barron's say they considered scores of philanthropists, rating them on such criteria as innovation, quality of alliances with other groups, the ripple effects of their giving and the extent to which their successful projects can be replicated.

They say they gravitated to philanthropists whose causes address severe problems, like children's health in high-poverty regions of the world, but a broad range of causes, even in the arts, are reflected in the final cut.

Barrons says some of the top 25 are true celebrities, like Brad Pitt and Magic Johnson, while others are people we've probably never heard of before, like Australian John Wood. The former Microsoft executive distributes a book every three minutes to children in nine developing countries through Room to Read.

The Magazine says the two philanthropists it thinks are having the biggest impact happen to have each made their fortune at eBay, the giant flea market. Pierre Omidyar, No. 1, and Jeffrey Skoll, No. 2, have similar missions, too: They focus on supporting the work of other philanthropists and providing them with networking and leverage opportunities.

Barrons says that is a hallmark of a high-impact practice known as venture philanthropy.

See the full list at online.barrons.com

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