Early in the new millennium, Montana was one of the top ten states in methamphetamine usage. Fully 53 percent of kids in foster care were there because of meth, 50 percent of adults in prison had committed meth-related crimes, and the drug was costing the state tens of millions every year—not to mention human lives.
When Montana resident Tom Siebel learned of this, he wanted to do something about it. Siebel was a software developer who had made billions creating programs to manage customer relations. He began investing his own money to create the Montana Meth Project, which in 2005 launched the first of its memorable ad campaigns. The ads, ranging from billboards to television, show the effects of meth on the human body, relationships, and more—in graphic detail. The idea was to show teens (the target age group was 12-17) what they were getting into. The campaigns were based on extensive research about what kinds of communication and advertising had an effect on teenagers, and they were aired in such quantity that the project became the single largest advertiser in the state.
From 2005 to 2010, meth usage in Montana declined 63 percent according to the Montana Office of Public Instruction, a result of the public education done by the Meth Project, increased law enforcement, and state rehab programs. These results impressed Montana’s neighbors enough that by 2012 there were spinoff programs, also aided by Siebel, in several other states. The Montana Meth Project has won more than 50 awards and was named the third most effective philanthropy in the world by Barron’s.
Since 2000, the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation has granted $230 million to various charitable causes, including more than $30 million to the Meth Project.
- Philanthropy magazine on Siebel’s anti-meth campaign philanthropyroundtable.org/topic/excellence_in_philanthropy/lassoing_montana_meth
- Montana Meth Project, montana.methproject.org
- PBS story, pbs.org/now/enterprisingideas/montana-meth-project.html