‘I have become a volunteer leader, organizing other young people with wealth to to do great things with their giving. I never imagined myself being this type of leader … I’m an engineer!’
Jessan Hutchison-Quillian was brought up in Seattle. In 2007, after graduating as a computer scientist at the age of 20, he went to work for Google. Realizing that his salary would be far in excess of his needs, he began to seek out progressive causes to give to. In 2009, he became involved with Resource Generation. Through Resource Generation, he found Social Justice Fund Northwest, and in 2010 he joined the first SJF Giving Project, a cross-class group of people who come together to fund organizing in the US North-west. He is now the engineer for Google’s Corporate Social Responsibility Team, which aims to build a strong culture of giving at the organization.
Jessan Hutchison-Quillian doesn’t need all the money he makes at Google, so he gives nearly half of it away each year – not just because he can, but because he feels he should. Here he explains the roots of his philanthropy and his commitment to funding social justice issues and community organizing. This interview is based on a Bolder Giving conversation with Jason Franklin and a subsequent phone conversation with Caroline Hartnell.
Can you tell me how you started giving?
My first gift was to the Human Rights Campaign. It was around the presidential elections of 2004 and there was a lot of anti-gay rhetoric. My parents are lesbians so this was upsetting and I wanted to do something about it. I thought, ‘hey, if I give 30 bucks to this it’ll totally solve it.’ I’ve always had this idea that money is one way that you can help change things. Another of my early gifts was to help set up a teaching award in the name of a really great young professor I had who died of cancer – three bucks or something that got me on the donor list for my university for the rest of my life! I think that reflects two different aspects of giving that are common, both for me and for a lot of people. You give for your connections and you also give because of the change you want to see in the world.
It was when I started at Google that I got more deeply into giving. It was already clear to me that I was making way more money than I needed and that I wanted to do something good with the rest. I have been very lucky: my parents have always given me the love and support I need, I’ve had enough to eat and a nice place to live. Others haven’t been so lucky. But I didn’t just want to address basic needs; I wanted to support progressive causes in the US in a way that would be transformative. I also wanted to give internationally because the US economy is based on taking disproportionate resources from the rest of the world and I wanted to give something back. Another reason for getting more into giving at this point was that Google matches your donation up to $6,000 per year, which I wanted to take advantage of.