Tag Archives: 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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Playing the Percentages

Ah: the end of the year! Donors are racing to register their charitable contributions before January first. Nonprofits are counting on a December bounty. But what, besides tax advantages, is driving the giving?

For donors, the process boils down to two basic decisions: Which charities are deserving of their contributions, and how much should they give each one. And that leads to some larger questions: How much should each of us give in total? And how does our level of philanthropy compare to others? Continue reading

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Roger’s Rule

The most generous donors don’t want to pay for everything themselves.

When I was a young (still in my twenties) executive director of a small human service agency we had a remarkable older gentleman on our board. Roger had vast experience nationally in finance, investments, the corporate world, and nonprofits. He was wise.  When he spoke at meetings, which was fairly infrequently, people would really sit up and listen. And he was generous, both because he had the capacity, and because charitable giving gave him great pleasure.

But although Roger was sincere in his approach to charitable giving, he was also rather crafty and strategic. Continue reading

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All Bequests Are Generous; Some Can Also Be Smart

Those of you with an oil-burning furnace may be familiar with efficiency percentage tags.

If you don’t heat with fuel oil: When the oil company maintenance crew comes at the beginning of each winter to service your furnace, they leave behind a tag declaring its operating efficiency. If the tag reads 90%, you’re doing really well. If the tag reads 60%, it’s time to get a new furnace. You’re wasting a lot of fuel.

If I were to hang an efficiency tag on charitable bequests, most would be around 75% — and a few would be at 15%. Continue reading

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