Her name was Maddie, and before David Duffield was a billionaire, she was his rock. In various interviews over the years, the tech founder best known for PeopleSoft and Workday has described her as a lighthouse in his stormy startup days and a dear friend. Her unconditional love, according to Duffield, helped he and his wife Cheryl survive the stress of the entrepreneurial journey.
Maddie, their miniature schnauzer, was not only the first of many dogs the Duffields would adopt into their family over the years but also the inspiration for the couple’s subsequent philanthropic efforts.
David and Cheryl met Maddie when she was just ten days old, and it was love at first sight. “She melted our hearts from the first second we saw her with her sweet ways, her stubbornness, her independence, her intelligence, her spirit and her devotion,” David Duffield told PAWS Chicago in 2012.
She was with the couple through thick and thin, and on one particularly good day, he picked her up and told her he wanted to do his part to make sure her fellow canines could always be as happy as he felt in that moment.
“I promised her that if I ever made any money in my career, we’d give it back to companion animal causes in her honor,” David Duffield said in a statement when Dog Fancy Magazine included him on its 45th anniversary list of people who’ve changed the dog world for the better.
In 1994, three years before Maddie passed away, he and Cheryl made good on that promise by launching Maddie’s Fund, which awards grants to initiatives related to animal adoption, foster care for companion animals, no-kill shelters, veterinary research and efforts to keep people and pets together. Today, it has an endowment of $300 million.
Cheryl and David’s initial gift to the foundation, $200 million in stock, was at the time the largest-ever single donation to an organization focused on companion animal welfare, and the couple has since given millions more. To date, Maddie’s Fund has awarded more than $265 million in grants to animal-focused organizations—mainly nonprofit groups that share the organization’s no-kill, foster-friendly ethos.
If David Duffield’s name, but not Maddie’s story, strikes you as familiar, it may be because he was among the notable figures who quickly pledged financial support toward Maui’s wildfire relief efforts—albeit support with a narrow focus. Not long after the wildfires destroyed Lahaina, the Dave & Cheryl Duffield Foundation (founded in 2016, again in honor of Maddie), began working with the Maui Humane Society to provide care for pets displaced by the disaster.
Unlike the Maddie Fund, the Dave & Cheryl Duffield Foundation finances a wide range of causes. In 2021, it granted more than $4 million to 30 charities supporting both pets and people affected by fires in California’s Lake Tahoe region. Through the foundation, the couple has financed everything from hospital operations during the pandemic to support for military veterans to Nevada parks and schools.
However, it’s clear just how much of an impact Maddie had on the Duffields during her time with them. The couple still have dogs, and David has hinted that they might someday leave their fortune to Maddie’s Fund. More importantly, Cheryl and David Duffield’s charitable giving remains, to this day, very much focused on the wellbeing of companion animals and their role in our lives.
— Maddie's Adopt (@maddiesadopt) June 1, 2014
In 2022, their foundation granted $12.1 million to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine to fund the creation of the Duffield Institute for Animal Behavior And as of 2023, the Dave & Cheryl Duffield Foundation is financing the development and construction of a 27-acre campus for Liberty Dogs, a service dog training initiative geared toward veterans who can benefit from canine companionship and emotional support.