The couple, who pledged in November to give their $2 billion fortune to philanthropic causes during their lifetimes — while declining to become signatories of the Giving Pledge — have been augmenting their family foundation's grantmaking by writing $15,000 checks anonymously to people in dire financial straits. For two years, a secret network of associates across the country has helped the Grosses give directly to hundreds of individuals and families by identifying those in need. The effort began after the couple saw a 60 Minutes segment about older workers who were laid off when the space shuttle program was shut down and have been struggling since. These days, the Grosses don't decide who receives a check, Bill Gross told the Chronicle; they just write them.
Even gifts made through the William and Sue Gross Family Foundation, which the Chronicle reports has awarded grants totaling nearly $110 million to date, are somewhat unorthodox in that many — including a $20 million grant to Mercy Ships earlier this year, $500,000 to the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation in 2007, and grants totaling $14 million to the University of California, Irvine's stem cell research center — have been inspired by news stories. "The standard philanthropic philosophy seems to be that you have to focus and concentrate in order to have an impact," said Bill Gross. "I think Sue and I are more eclectic. We're a little different." The Grosses also have given millions of dollars to Doctors Without Borders, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, the Hoag Hospital Foundation, Columbia University, and the Smithsonian Institution.
Gross told the Chronicle that philanthropists like Bill Gates who have been CEOs of major corporations know how to run a foundation, whereas he and his wife "try to attach ourselves to something that is already ongoing." The Grosses do, however, require that the nonprofits they support demonstrate good business skills and the ability to build sustainability into their operations.
"I think we’re very satisfied with what we’ve done so far," said Gross. "The only question is, 'Have we done enough?'" While he is confident that if he cannot finish the job of giving away his $2 billion fortune — which generates roughly $150 million in interest annually — his wife and children will, "I have to hustle," said Gross.