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Duke Pioneers Pathway to Philanthropy for Entrepreneurs Through New Program

DU Hatch

DuHatch is just one of the new campus facilities designed to promote student entrepreneurial activity. Photo by Duke Photography

Entrepreneurs who are passionate about Duke University now have a new vehicle that allows them to support the university by leveraging their start-ups. 

The new DukeOne program enables entrepreneurs to pledge 1 percent of their company to Duke, deferring their gift until they have sold their company, or until it goes public, usually within five years.

“Gifts to Duke from entrepreneurs have historically been challenging because their assets are often tied to their companies,” said Eric Toone, vice provost and director of Duke’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative.

“With DukeOne, people who can’t give annually can now express their intent to have a transformative impact by coupling their future success to their philanthropy for Duke,” Toone said.  “Now, people who can’t give a set amount of money every year can at least express their intent to have a transformative impact by coupling their future success to their philanthropy for Duke.”

DukeOne allows participants to sign a non-binding equity pledge to give 1 percent of their company to Duke at the time of a liquidity event. The basis for the program was inspired by a 1-1-1 model initiated by Marc Benioff, founder and CEO of, that asks donors to pledge 1 percent of their company’s equity, time and product to benefit society.

“This allows the entrepreneur to maximize their tax benefits along with being recognized for the full impact of their future support,” said Phil Buchanan, associate vice president of planned giving at Duke.

The Pratt School of Engineering, where many innovation and entrepreneurship projects have started, spearheaded the development of DukeOne. It is among the first of its kind in the country and is open to anyone interested in investing in Duke although alumni and friends are expected to make up the bulk of participants.

“It’s time that we as academic institutions provide an efficient avenue for successful entrepreneurs who benefitted from their Duke experience to give back,” said George Truskey, dean of the Pratt School of Engineering. “I’m very excited to watch DukeOne strengthen a robust community of current and future Duke entrepreneurs while providing resources to Duke.”

Participants have an added incentive: Networking opportunities and training events in conjunction with the Duke Angel Network, which university leaders and alumni founded earlier this year. The network is focused on helping private companies grow by facilitating the flow of capital and support from Duke angel investors. It invests in companies in which a founder, executive or board member is a Duke alumnus, faculty member, staff member, student or parent.

“DukeOne is incredible,” said Nicholas Zaldastani, a Duke Engineering graduate who was the first to sign up for the program. Zaldastani is co-founder of CrocPond, a family entertainment and media brand, focused on socially positive themes.

“As a Duke graduate, DukeOne provides an impactful means to support my desire to contribute to the growth of the Duke community and to the mission of the university.”