Julius Rosenwald created a foundation with the wealth he earned as a co-founder of Sears, Roebuck & Company, and stipulated that all the funds be spent within 25 years of his death; the Foundation closed in 1948, having granted $63 million.
Mr. Rosenwald founded Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. He endowed the Tuskegee Institute and served on its board for 20 years, working closely with Booker T. Washington. In the American South, he showed innovation by using $4 million as matching funds to support the building of more than 5,300 schools and teachers’ homes.
But while his contemporaries Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller were building foundations that would limit giving to establish endowments in perpetuity, Mr. Rosenwald insisted that “the generation which has contributed to the making of a millionaire should be the one to profit by his generosity.”
Depression, the blues, low affect. Whatever you call it, it’s powerful. I have seen it take a terrible toll on people I love. And I myself have heard that terrible scrapping sound of the undercarriage of my own low-riding spirit on the pavement of disappointment and loss.
Yet I believe free will - something we all possess - can help us remedy chronic sadness. And I’m uncompromising in that belief. That’s why I seek to be deliberately provocative in this post.
In the 1970s, Walter Annenberg demonstrated that assessment in philanthropy can be straight-forward and personal.
Andrew Carnegie, along with John D. Rockefeller, was one of the archetypal philanthropists of the 20th century. When he created the Carnegie Corporation of New York in 1911, he did it with a clear focus for his giving. One of his “big challenges” was education: he sought to “promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding.”
He was also clear on the outcomes he wanted - seeking to create “ladders on which the aspiring can rise.” He is remembered today, in part, for his focus on building institutions that provided such “ladders” - for example, funding 2,509 libraries across the world, including 1,679 in United States.
But few people know he stood as an early champion of effective philanthropy.
A major project doesn’t always require hands-on effort or a big public role for a lead donor.
Craig Silverstein, a software engineer who was Google’s first employee, decided that making his gift effective was far more important than reaping high-profile recognition.
Climate change represents the most disruptive philanthropic and business opportunity since the Industrial Revolution.
In the years to come, the growing clean energy sector will require massive further investment. Changes in consumption patterns will lead to significant product and service innovation. Mitigation will change commerce and transportation. And the changing climate will cause more destruction, accelerating investment in resilience.
But these developments are less important than the systemic transformation that has already begun.
John D. Rockefeller’s major projects can appear remarkably ambitious from a 21st century perspective. Seeking a “cure” by addressing the root causes for poverty, ignorance, racism and disease seems beyond “major” and verging on the quixotic.
Yet, he set an example of thoughtful, effective and bold giving that many philanthropists have followed.
You may have received an inheritance some time ago. You may know that money is coming in the future. Or you may have earned your money. No matter the timing or the means, the key philanthropic question for the next generation is: how do you perceive your wealth?
Is it a burden? A resource? Something to be hidden lest you be accosted for donations? Something to acknowledge publicly as a powerful lever to encourage good works?
Two tech billionaires and an entrepreneur walk into a bar.
The billionaires, both men, fall into a bidding war to determine who will get the first option on new technology developed by the entrepreneur, who is a woman and nearly a generation younger than them.
She, possessing a philanthropic heart as well as a keen business sense, has vowed to sell the technology only if it is used to deliver positive social change along with a financial return.
As the bidding rises, the voices of the men get louder and louder. The mood grows more and more aggressive. The entrepreneur looks ill-at-ease, but the billionaires don’t notice. Finally, the bartender interrupts.
“I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation. Why don’t you take it outside.”
He brings out a softball and three old baseball gloves from underneath the bar and puts them on the counter.