Tag Archives: effective philanthropy

The Greatest Philanthropist You’ve Never Heard Of

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Julius Rosenwald isn’t much remembered today, but eighty years ago he was considered one of the “big three” of American philanthropy, along with John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. It’s a shame that Rosenwald is largely forgotten. He was a remarkable guy, and his approach to philanthropy is worth commemorating and emulating.

Julius Rosenwald was the president and chair of Sears, Roebuck and Co. in the early part of the twentieth century. Today we think of Sears as an aging big box retailer, but a hundred years ago Sears was the Amazon.com of its time, perfecting the new concept of mail order commerce. Customers – most living in rural areas – could find just about anything they could imagine in the 1,000-page Sears, Roebuck catalog, from wheelbarrows to night gowns to pre-fabricated homes, all at prices that undercut local retailers. Rosenwald was, by most accounts, a remarkably down-to-earth and unpretentious man. And he was also an extremely wealthy man. Continue reading

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Closing the Divide

(Note: This entry is cross-posted in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.)

In this election year we’ve heard plenty about the 47%, the 1% and the 99%. The expanding wealth gap has become a major election issue, as it should be. Decisions in the coming years about taxes, access to education, jobs and workers’ rights are intertwined with reversing the growing wealth imbalance.

Undoubtedly the most effective approach to narrowing the wealth gap is political. But is there a role that individual donors can play? There certainly is, but it requires a break from traditional philanthropy. Continue reading

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