Donor Spotlight: How Paul and Cathy Cotton use philanthropy to help disadvantaged groups
Updated: Nov 28, 2022
A gift from Paul and Cathy Cotton will help teach women in Uganda about their land rights.
After years of living, working, and traveling overseas, Paul and Cathy Cotton are passionate about supporting underrepresented and disadvantaged people, locally and around the world. The Cottons live in Canada and have been Amplio donors for over a decade. This year, they are supporting Amplio's work in Uganda to strengthen women's lands. The Cottons have already donated $5,000. Now they are offering a $10,000 matching challenge to incentivize other donors. Through their philanthropic strategy, Paul and Cathy will increase their impact and help Amplio raise up to $25,000.
Paul serves on the Amplio board and is a past president. We reached out to ask him about the inspiration and values that drive his and Cathy's philanthropy.
What made you decide to give your first gift to Amplio?
Cliff and I worked together at Microsoft and I offered to be an angel investor in any start-up that he might create. When he founded Amplio, my wife Cathy and I kept that promise. In 2008, our first donation helped expand the use of Talking Books in northern Ghana. We have been donors ever since and have supported Amplio's Talking Book program expansion into countries such as Rwanda, Bangladesh, and Haiti.
Having lived and worked in Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia, we are resolved to do our part to help underserved populations overseas in as cost-effective a way as possible.
What guides your philanthropy?
Cathy and I try to help underrepresented or disadvantaged people wherever they live. For example, we created a scholarship for women entering a tertiary degree program in mathematics at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, since we want to encourage as many women as possible to obtain advanced degrees.
In addition to supporting Amplio, we are currently supporting a five-year Cuso International project in Tanzania that aims to create opportunities for self-employment in agriculture and agribusiness for women and youth. We also support an eye clinic in Sierra Leone that does cataract surgery for low-income people to restore their vision. Locally, we are also strong supporters of community programs that help and provide opportunities for disadvantaged groups of Canadians, whether they be Indigenous people, refugees, children of lower-income families, or homeless people.
What do you hope to accomplish through your philanthropy? Cathy and I recognize the opportunities that our families and our education gave us, and we want to help others less fortunate than ourselves. Having lived and worked in Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia, we are resolved to do our part to help underserved populations overseas in as cost-effective a way as possible.
What inspired you to support Amplio’s work in Uganda?
Talking Books will be used to help sensitize around 8,000 people about women's land rights in the West Nile region. Supporting Amplio via this project will have a significant impact, empowering communities to drive social change. It is exactly the kind of project that Cathy and I like to support, and it is a perfect use of Talking Books. In addition, this is the first time that Amplio has partnered with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and may open up new opportunities.
Supporting Amplio via this project will have a significant impact, empowering communities to drive social change. It is exactly the kind of project that Cathy and I like to support, and it is a perfect use of Talking Books.
Why do you enjoy giving to Amplio? Cathy and I feel that we receive the most significant return on Investment for our donations to Amplio. Besides reaching underserved populations with vital knowledge about best practices in such areas as agriculture or health and sanitation, the Talking Book is an innovative, battery-powered technology that lets Amplio scale out to reach many people in their native language without using the Internet or cell phones.
What do you wish everyone knew about Amplio?
The Amplio Talking Book is a proven technology for providing behavior change information to underserved populations worldwide. The return on your donations to Amplio will far exceed most other ways you can find of helping underprivileged groups receive the knowledge they need to improve their own situation.
Paul Cotton has over 40 years of software development experience. Paul is credited with Microsoft’s cloud computing interoperability and standards strategy. He has represented Canada on international standards committees, worked with IT startups, and been an angel investor. He currently leads an international group to create standards for AI.