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What Does Phil Knight Do for Charity?

Phil Knight is the co-founder of the widely popular sporting goods brand Nike. He is an American businessman and a billionaire.

Although he is one of the wealthiest people in the world, many don’t realize the charity work he does consistently. So, what does Phil Knight do for charity? Please keep reading to get more details about his philanthropy endeavors and to learn more about this fascinating individual.

Who is Phil Knight?

Phil Knight was one of the founders of Nike. He also served as the CEO and Chairman of the company. He later went on to seek involvement in film studios.

Throughout his career, he created solid relationships with some of the biggest names in sports and film. However, he really made an impact with his charity work and has donated a fortune to helping worthwhile causes.

Phil Knight’s Beginnings

Phil Knight is the son of Bill Knight and Lota Knight. Knight lived in the town of Eastmoreland on the outskirts of Portland. He graduated from Cleaveland High School and attended the University of Oregon.

He was part of the Phi Gamma Delta and took an interest in sports and reporting early in his life.

Phil graduated in 1959 after attending school for three years. He also joined the Army Reserve and earned the designation of Distinguished Military Graduate the same year he earned his BBA.

He also served one year in the army on active duty and committed seven years to the Army Reserve. While in college, he participated in track and won many accolades and awards for his accomplishments in the sport.

After his stint in the Army Reserve, e enrolled in the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He graduated in 1962 from Stanford with a master’s degree.

After college, he teamed up with two partners to create a running team by the name of Athletics West. In terms of careers, he started as a CPA. He worked for a few companies before landing a position as a professor of accounting at Portland State University.

Business Endeavors

Phil Knight became inspired after his graduation during a trip to Japan. He had a previous interest in running shoes and discovered Tiger brand shoes.

They were later to become Asics. While there, he obtained distribution rights for the shoes in the USA. When he received his first shipment of shoes in the US, he sent some to his partner at the University of Oregon in hopes of obtaining sales.

He ended up acquiring the order and gaining another business partner.

Phil Knight Business Endeavors

Phil Knight’s early dealings with Tiger brand/Asics shoes were the springboard for his development of Nike. Before adopting the Nike brand, Knight and his partner created Blue Ribbon Sports in 1964.

Once the two began creating running shoes, they propelled themselves to success from very humble beginnings. The first shoes they developed were sold from the trunk of Knight’s car.

Eventually, the brand gained traction, and Knight could work full-time for Blue Ribbon Sports and leave his accounting job.

While Blue Ribbon Sports was steadily gaining traction in the industry, it was a stroke of genius from one of the first employees, Jeff Johnson, who would think of using the Nike name. T

he name was suggested to Phil Knight because Jeff said it was referencing the Greek goddess of victory, and the partners agreed to change the name to Nike in 1971.

The Nike Logo 

The universally known logo for Nike was created by a student of design named Carolyn Davidson in 1971. The company paid her $35 to create the iconic design that can be found globally today.

Eventually, the brand attracted the attention of some of the world’s top athletes. Collaborations and endorsement from these celebrities create a healthy environment for growth and popularity.

In the 90s, Phil Knight invested approximately a 15% interest in Will Vinson Studios. The studio was an animation company, and after Phil had invested his money, his son Travis began working at the studio.

After a time managing the studio, Knight bought the studio along with the assistance of the management of Nike. Eventually, Phil Knight appointed his son to the Will Vinson Studios board. After the CEO, Vinson stepped away from the company, he rebranded and renamed the studio Laika.

Phil Knight Charity Work

Phil Knight is known for his sizable contributions to charity. For example, he donated shares of Nike to charity to the tune of $942 million. However, he never disclosed the charity which was the beneficiary.

He also provided a charity with 7,250,000 shares of Nike, according to the SEC. His foundation, The Knight Foundation, is reported to have $2.9 in shares for donation purposes.

Additionally, the scope of their charitable contribution is in the millions. Reportedly, in 2018 alone, his foundation donated $1.6 billion to charity.

The Knight Foundation was established in 1907 by Phil and Penny Knight to fund their philanthropic endeavors. As of 2020, the couple has donated $900 million in stock shares for the year and a total of $1.37 billion.

The sum earned them a top spot as one of the largest charitable contributors for the year. Additionally, he is known for his contributions to universities. He donated $500 million to the University of Oregon. He also donated a hefty sum to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

Most recently, Phil and Penny Knight donated 12 million shares of Nike worth over $990 million to charity through the Knight Foundation. This sum totaled .07% of Nike’s stock. This was also a total of 3.1 percent of the billionaire’s wealth.

We can expect to see more charitable contributions from this billionaire and his wife to various charities in the form of stock. He is noted as being one of the most prolific and generous philanthropists of his time.


Phil Knight is one of the most iconic businessmen in the world. Knight was one of the original founders of Nike, in addition to other business endeavors in the film industry.

He uses his vast wealth to fund various worthwhile charitable causes but chooses, in many cases, to keep the donations anonymous and not publicized.

He and his wife Penny created the Knight Foundation in 1997 to help fund their philanthropy. Over the years, the couple has donated billions to various charities.

His interests tend to be various causes, but he also has a healthy interest in funding higher education. He continues to donate to charities to this day, even though he retired from working with Nike a few years earlier.

The Knight Foundation is still very active and has no plans to discontinue giving to charity anytime soon.

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Lily Wordsmith

Written by Lily Wordsmith

Lily Wordsmith is a freelance writer who has had a love affair with the written word for decades. You can find her writing blog posts and articles while sitting under a tree at the local park watching her kids play, or typing away on her tablet in line at the DMV. In addition to her freelance career, she is pursuing ebook writing with an ever-growing repertoire of witty ebooks to her name. Her diversity is boundless, and she has written about everything from astrobotany to zookeepers. Her real passions are her family, baking desserts and all things luxe.

Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith

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