Jeff Harbers was a brilliant man. He was also, by his own account, a fortunate man. Though he was smart enough to get a job at any major corporation in the early 1980s, Jeff decided to join a small start-up company instead. That decision turned out to be as lucky as it was smart: Jeff’s task was to spearhead the development of a software product that would eventually be used by millions of people. The start-up was called Microsoft. The product was Microsoft Excel. And within a decade, Jeff was also a prosperous man.
When he wasn’t working, Jeff went outside. He loved the majesty of the outdoors and wanted to help keep it that way by being a good steward of the land. Whether it was a ranch in Montana or a rain forest in Suriname, Jeff felt called to preserve the earth’s natural beauty and diversity for future generations. And he knew he had been given the resources to think big.
Jeff always intended to give his money away. He began this task in earnest in 1998 with a strategic donation to Conservation International. The strategy was to focus on an area that would have maximum impact. They chose Suriname, a South American country comprised of 90% rainforest, and they thought big: Jeff’s seed money created the Central Suriname Nature Reserve (CNSR), a piece of land roughly the size of New Jersey that is now one of the largest nature reserves in South America and arguably the most pristine protected tropical forest on the planet. In the early 2000s, Jeff began to form plans to create his own charitable organization devoted to caring for the planet and its inhabitants. In June of 2006, the unthinkable happened. Jeff died in a plane crash.
A year after his death, Jeff’s widow, Renee, formed the Harbers Family Foundation to fulfill Jeff’s dream. The Foundation now devotes its resources to preserving land and meeting human need through the use of powerful visual narratives designed to inspire change in attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.