Non-profit

Emerson Collective

Website:

www.emersoncollective.com

Location:

Paolo Alto, CA

Tax ID:

81-3242506

Formation:

2004

Type:

Grantmaking Foundation

President:

Laurene Powell Jobs [30]

The Emerson Collective is a left-of-center private grantmaking enterprise that advocates for a wide variety of left-progressive causes. The Collective was founded in 2004 by Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow and heir of Apple Computer executive Steve Jobs. Utilizing an unusual non-profit LLC structure, the Collective supports opportunities for underprivileged Americans through philanthropic grants, political advocacy, venture capital investments, and media production. [1]

Despite its considerable influence and enormous size, with over $1.8 billion in assets and 184 employees,[2] the Collective largely operates in secrecy and maintains a low profile. [3][4]

Structure

While most charitable non-profits are organized as 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit corporations, the Emerson Collective is a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC), a structure ordinarily used for for-profit businesses. [5] LLCs rarely attain tax-exempt status due to the complexity of complying with the relevant regulations. [6]

One of the requirements for an LLC to be a non-profit is for the entity to be owned by another non-profit. [7] Hence, the Emerson Collective is owned by the Emerson Collective Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization. While the Foundation must publicly disclose its financial statements, it is not required to reveal the inner workings of the Emerson Collective. [8]

By operating as an LLC, the Collective can use its funds for a wider variety of purposes than traditional charities, including political advocacy. It also enjoys less rigorous reporting requirements,[9] and does not publicly reveal its financial statements nor grant award amounts. [10]

Due in part to the Emerson Collective’s structural opacity, left-of-center philanthropy website Inside Philanthropy named Powell Jobs its “Least Transparent Mega-Giver” of 2019. [11]

Philosophy

Powell Jobs began her philanthropic career in 1997 with College Track, a Palo Alto-based education non-profit. She started the Collective seven years later, but the organization grew dramatically after Powell Jobs inherited $14.1 billion from her husband,[12] expanding from 10 employees to its current staff of over 180. [13][14]

Powell Jobs has expressed concern with the perceived lack of social and economic mobility in the US, and attributes these shortcomings to structural injustices and institutional stagnation. [15]

As founder and president of the Collective, Powell Jobs modeled the organization after the Silicon Valley start-up culture Steve Jobs helped pioneer. She intended to build an organization which could fund ambitious ideas across any field which might benefit her broadly progressive goals. Innovation is encouraged and failure on bold ideas accepted; each of the Collective’s eight sectors are run like start-ups, and their operators are given latitude to pursue their goals with little oversight. [16]

Combined with the LLC structure, Powell Jobs has steered the Collective across an unusually wide breadth of fields, including education, immigration, environmentalism, journalism, healthcare research, entrepreneurialism, gun control, voting rights, among others. Likewise, the Collective has funded an equally varied array of methods to pursue its goals, leading the Washington Post to describe the organization as “equal parts think tank, foundation, venture capital fund, media baron, arts patron and activist hive.” [17]

Prominent Staff

The Emerson Collective has numerous staff members who have had prominent political careers, most of which were on the Democratic side. These include:

Notable Activity

Venture Capital Investments

By taking advantage of its LLC structure, the Collective is willing to stake companies whose business goals align with its own philanthropic values. Since 2014, the Collective has funded more than 30 for-profit start-ups, including a floating data center company, and a supersonic aircraft company. It took an early stake in the social media platform, Pinterest, which launched a $12.8 billion IPO in 2019. [19]

While the Collective does not take profits, Powell Jobs has drawn criticism for using her philanthropic organization as a de facto venture capital fund. [20]

The Atlantic Acquisition

In 2017, the Collective paid over $100 million for a reported 70% stake[21] in The Atlantic, the 162 year-old magazine and multi-platform publication. Beyond pricing and equity, the terms of the deal have not been publicly revealed,[22] but Powell Jobs has expressed her support for journalistic independence as a crucial component of maintaining democracy. [23]

The Collective has funded numerous other left-of-center media outlets, including Mother Jones, Marshall Project, and ProPublica. [24]

Mexico-US Border Wall Art

In October, the Collective financed an art installation spanning both sides of a Mexico-US border barrier to protest the immigration policies of the Trump administration. The piece, depicting the eyes of Mayra, a young illegal immigrant, was created by French street artist, JR. [25]

XQ: The Super School Project

XQ is the Collective’s initiative to fund 14 model school experiments across the country to change the institutional structure of secondary education. [26][27]

In 2017, the Collective put on the XQ Super School Live Special on ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC which drew heavy criticism for its implied dismissal of past education reform efforts and the value of teachers. [28][29]

References

  1. “About Us.” Emerson Collective. Accessed January 7, 2020. https://www.emersoncollective.com/about-us/. ^
  2. “Our Team.” Emerson Collective. Accessed January 7, 2020, https://www.emersoncollective.com/our-team/. ^
  3. “The Quest of Laurene Powell Jobs.” Washington Post. Accessed January 7, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/style/wp/2018/06/11/feature/the-quest-of-laurene-powell-jobs/?utm_term=.4542a49f79f5. ^
  4. “Billionaire Laurene Powell Jobs Turned Her LLC Into a VC Machine.” Bloomberg. Accessed January 7, 2020. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-04-25/billionaire-laurene-powell-jobs-turned-her-llc-into-a-vc-machine. ^
  5. “Limited Liability Corporation (LLC).” Investopedia. Accessed January 7, 2020. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/l/llc.asp. ^
  6. “Can An LLC Be A Nonprofit?” Legal Zoom. Accessed January 7, 2020. https://www.legalzoom.com/articles/can-an-llc-be-a-nonprofit. ^
  7. “Can An LLC Be A Nonprofit?” Legal Zoom. Accessed January 7, 2020. https://www.legalzoom.com/articles/can-an-llc-be-a-nonprofit. ^
  8. “The Quest of Laurene Powell Jobs.” Washington Post. Accessed January 7, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/style/wp/2018/06/11/feature/the-quest-of-laurene-powell-jobs/?utm_term=.4542a49f79f5. ^
  9. “Does the Emerson Collective Square with Philanthropic Accountability.” Nonprofit Quarterly. Accessed January 7, 2020. https://nonprofitquarterly.org/does-the-emerson-collective-square-with-philanthropic-accountability/. ^
  10. “Emerson Collective: Grants for Conservation.” Inside Philanthropy. Accessed January 7, 2020. https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/grants-for-conservation/emerson-collective-grants-for-conservation. ^
  11. IP Staff. “Philanthropy Awards, 2019.” Inside Philanthropy. Inside Philanthropy, December 31, 2019. https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2019/philanthropy-awards. ^
  12. “Meet Laurene Powell Jobs, the mysterious woman who inherited Steve Jobs’ fortune.” Business Insider. Accessed January 5, 2020. https://www.businessinsider.com/laurene-powell-jobs-inherited-steve-jobs-fortune-2016-2. ^
  13. “The Quest of Laurene Powell Jobs.” Washington Post. Accessed January 7, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/style/wp/2018/06/11/feature/the-quest-of-laurene-powell-jobs/?utm_term=.4542a49f79f5. ^
  14. “Our Team.” Emerson Collective. Accessed January 7, 2020, https://www.emersoncollective.com/our-team/. ^
  15. “About Us.” Emerson Collective. Accessed January 7, 2020. https://www.emersoncollective.com/about-us/. ^
  16. “Does the Emerson Collective Square with Philanthropic Accountability.” Nonprofit Quarterly. Accessed January 7, 2020. https://nonprofitquarterly.org/does-the-emerson-collective-square-with-philanthropic-accountability/. ^
  17. “The Quest of Laurene Powell Jobs.” Washington Post. Accessed January 7, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/style/wp/2018/06/11/feature/the-quest-of-laurene-powell-jobs/?utm_term=.4542a49f79f5. ^
  18. “The Quest of Laurene Powell Jobs.” Washington Post. Accessed January 7, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/style/wp/2018/06/11/feature/the-quest-of-laurene-powell-jobs/?utm_term=.4542a49f79f5. ^
  19. “Billionaire Laurene Powell Jobs Turned Her LLC Into a VC Machine.” Bloomberg. Accessed January 7, 2020. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-04-25/billionaire-laurene-powell-jobs-turned-her-llc-into-a-vc-machine. ^
  20. “Billionaire Laurene Powell Jobs Turned Her LLC Into a VC Machine.” Bloomberg. Accessed January 7, 2020. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-04-25/billionaire-laurene-powell-jobs-turned-her-llc-into-a-vc-machine. ^
  21. “Laurene Powell Jobs solidifies control of The Atlantic as Bradley relinquishes duties.” Politico. Accessed January 7, 2020. https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/20/laurene-jobs-the-atlantic-072210. ^
  22. “Emerson Collective To Acquire Majority Ownership of the Atlantic, Forming Partnership With David Bradley.” The Atlantic. Accessed January 7, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/press-releases/archive/2017/07/emerson-collective-to-acquire-majority-ownership-of-the-atlantic-forming-partnership-with-david-bradley/535230/. ^
  23. “The World’s Most Valuable Troublemakers.” The Atlantic. Accessed January 7, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/11/why-journalism-matters/602431/. ^
  24. “Laurene Powell Jobs’s Organization to Take Majority Stake in the Atlantic.” The New York Times. Accessed January 7, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/28/business/media/atlantic-media-emerson-collective-majority-stake.html. ^
  25. “What a Work of Art Can Teach Us About Dishonest Portrayals of Immigrants.” Time. Accessed January 7, 2020. https://time.com/5016079/dreamers-jr-immigration/. ^
  26. “XQ: The Super School Project.” Emerson Collective. Accessed January 7, 2020. https://www.emersoncollective.com/xq-the-super-school-project/. ^
  27. “XQ Schools.” Emerson Collective. Accessed January 8, 2020. https://xqsuperschool.org/xq-schools. ^
  28. “Just What the Heck Was That XQ Super School Live Special?” Edsurge. Accessed January 8, 2020. https://www.edsurge.com/news/2017-09-11-just-what-the-heck-was-that-xq-super-school-live-special. ^
  29. “The false narrative behind a glitzy live television show about school reform.” Washington Post. Accessed January 8, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/09/07/the-false-narrative-behind-a-glitzy-live-television-show-about-school-reform/ ^
  30. “Our Team.” Emerson Collective. Accessed January 7, 2020, https://www.emersoncollective.com/our-team/. ^

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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: November 1, 2016

  • Available Filings

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Emerson Collective

    2200 GENG RD STE 100
    Paolo Alto, CA 94303-3358