Among the so-called new philanthropists who rode the tech comet to wealth in the '90s, Kanter is by no means the biggest. The very public donations of the megarich are well-known: eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, more than $4.2 billion pledged to various causes, including Tufts University; America Online chairman Steve Case, more than $200 million in gifts to a string of education and healthcare programs; Microsoft Midas Bill Gates, $22 billion given or pledged, much of it through the foundation he started with his wife, Melinda.

Lesser known, however, are the very personal endeavors of the lower-level techneau riche. Like the Rockefellers, Carnegies, and Fords of the past, they want to change the world, or at least reshape certain parts of it. But they disdain the time-honored methods of traditional philanthropy - write the check, attend the "arts and diseases" banquets, read the annual reports, and otherwise stay in the shadows. These millionaires prefer hands-on charity. Some have even chucked their upwardly mobile careers to focus full time on helping others.

Perhaps this direct involvement with their causes is to be expected. After all, these millionaires made their fortunes through hard work on a short timetable. They're accustomed to jumping in with both feet. "I want to get extremely involved with the organizations we're supporting," Kanter says. "I'm not into just writing checks. I want to go after it with the vigor of any entrepreneur who starts a business."

And while millionaires aren't minted every day anymore, there's enough residual wealth in American pockets to fund hundreds of entrepreneurial pet projects - and reshape American philanthropy in the process. "The sheer volume of money is creating attitudinal changes," says Mario Morino, chairman of the Reston, Virginia- based Morino Institute and chairman of Venture Philanthropy Partners.