How TED works
Who owns TED?
As of July 1, 2019, TED is owned by TED Foundation, a tax exempt not for profit corporation (a 501(c)3 organization under US tax code). TED moved TED Conferences LLC from the Sapling Foundation, which was established in 1996 by publishing entrepreneur Chris Anderson, over to TED Foundation to align with our brand and make it easier for our donors to connect TED donations to TED Conferences, LLC.
The goal of the TED Foundation is to foster the spread of great ideas. It aims to provide a platform for thinkers, visionaries and teachers, so that people around the globe can gain a better understanding of the biggest issues faced by the world, and feed a desire to help create a better future. Core to this goal is a belief that there is no greater force for changing the world than a powerful idea.
Many factors can amplify the power of ideas: mass media, technology and market forces, to name three. In the past, Sapling supported projects that used these tools to leverage every dollar spent and create sustainable change in areas such as global public health, poverty alleviation and biodiversity. More than $10 million was granted to enlightened organizations such as the Acumen Fund, Environmental Defence, One World Health, and PATH.
TED Foundation is not accepting proposals for outside grants; the foundation has turned its focus to the impact possible through TED itself and has been seeking ways to allow the extraordinary passion and inspiration created every year at our conferences to effect beneficial change in the world.
How does TED make money?
TED makes money through conference attendance fees, sponsorships, foundation support, licensing fees and book sales, and we spend it as soon as we get it — on video editing, web development and hosting for TED Talks and TED-Ed videos (ideas are free, but bandwidth is expensive…); support for community-driven initiatives like TEDx and the TED Fellows, and of course, paying fair salaries to staffers and interns.
Everyone who buys a pass to attend a TED conference is helping share free TED Talks video with the world, as well as supporting the TEDx program, free TED Fellowships, TED-Ed video lessons and more great stuff that is shared with the world for free. For this reason, a percentage of the attendance fee is a charitable contribution.
TED Talks on the web are also supported by partnerships with carefully selected organizations; their ads on the videos and website support making TED Talks available to the world for free in many languages and on many platforms. We are very selective in the organizations we partner with. Other projects and initiatives are supported by foundation funding and individual donors.
And of course we're also supported in kind by tens of thousands of volunteers — like all the amazing translators with the Open Translation Project, TEDx organizers, TED.com conversation moderators, and everyone who ever shares a TED Talk with someone else. (Thank you!)
What does TED do with its money?
- TED.com and our mobile apps allow great ideas to be easily accessible anywhere in the world, for free.
- The TED Fellows program supports extraordinary new voices as they develop their careers in science, the arts, social justice and more.
- TEDx supports the creation of independently run TED-style events in communities around the world.
The profits made by the TED conferences are directed toward these initiatives, and the TED Foundation welcomes contributions from those who share its philanthropic goals. Even more, it welcomes support from any organization or company that can help distribute "ideas worth spreading."