Robert F. Smith, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, along with Matthew Burkett, created Lincoln Hills Cares in 2007 in Denver, Colorado, where Smith was born and raised. Particularly invested in the growth of up and coming generations, Smith has been vocal about the progress that needs to be made in society. Designed to empower youth to grow into the next generation of leaders, participants are able to engage in educational outdoor recreation, cultural history exploration, and workforce advancement in order to enforce leadership skills.
Creating Opportunities Through the Outdoors
Lincoln Hills Cares places an emphasis on growth opportunities offered by the great outdoors, providing those who would otherwise not have such an opportunity to work more closely with nature. While personal and professional growth is a foremost priority in Smith’s work through Lincoln Hills Cares, the preservation of the environment is not neglected. Fund II Foundation, of which Smith is the founding director and President, works to protect the environment, expand access to parks and connect young people with outdoor recreation so they may reap the physical and psychological benefits of nature. In 2019, Smith personally donated $560,000 to Morehouse College to help develop a new on campus park that will provide an outdoor study space for its students.
Robert F. Smith’s Commitment to Education
In addition to work done through Lincoln Hills Cares, supporting the academic growth of minorities is at the core of Smith’s philanthropy. In 2017, Smith became the first African American to sign the Giving Pledge, committing at least half of his wealth to causes he cares about, including the advancement of educational opportunities in the Black community, particularly in the STEM field. Since signing the Giving Pledge, Smith has influenced individuals across the spheres of education, music, and leadership.
In 2016, Smith provided a $20 million donation to Cornell’s chemical engineering school, which was aptly named the Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. This gift, along with an additional $10 million to fund the Robert Frederick Smith Tech Scholars Program, works to support African American and females with their career goals within the STEM field. In 2017, Smith granted Columbia Business School a $15 million contribution to the institution’s $500 million fundraising goal to build new state-of-the-art campuses in Manhattanville.
To further the advancement of the Black community, Smith committed $34 million to the Morehouse College Student Success Program during his commencement speech in 2019. The gift would be used to pay off the student loan debt of nearly 400 graduates, with an additional $1 million to fund the Robert Frederick Smith Scholars Program. He has since spoken to the inspiration behind his speech and the decision to pay off the graduating class’s loans.
Having been raised within a musical household, Smith understands firsthand the impact of music on one’s life. For this reason, he has prioritized connecting individuals of color with music education as a means of personal expression. In 2016, Smith provided a $250,000 commitment to Sphinx Music to establish the Robert Frederick Smith Prize, which provides a talented string musician of color with $50,000 to support their musical career. Fund II Foundation also donated to Sphinx Music in the form of a $3 million gift from the Foundation. Under Smith’s leadership, the Foundation has also created flagship program InternX, which matches leading companies with diverse internship candidates, in the STEM or Business Finance fields.