THE OBLIGATION OF WEALTH!
As we proceed through the final quarter of the year, our minds often turn to charitable giving. Sometimes it is prompted by our personal desire to make a difference in our community. Other times it is prompted by not-for-profit organizations reaching out to us. Or it may be suggestions from our accountants as they try to help with tax planning issues. We are always impressed by stories detailing how others make consequential differences…
Is it possible that one, relatively under-the-radar individual, could have an outsized impact on the thinking of each of these distinguished philanthropists:
Lauren Powell Jobs
Remarkably, the answer is “yes”. That person, Charles Feeney, the cofounder of retailer, Duty Free Shops, recently passed away at the age of 92. Over his lifetime, Feeney, who started with nothing, gave away his entire 8-billion-dollar estate with the singular stroke of a pen.
Feeney’s message to major philanthropists was that people who have money have an obligation to make contributions while they are alive and have the energy, connections, and influence to make waves. He pioneered a new way of giving.
In some ways, Feeney was the James Bond of philanthropy. He tried to stay below the radar so that he could hunt for causes where he could have a dramatic impact and could go all in on the execution of his vision. Being involved and an active participant was critical to him.
Feeney was also a maverick. He was a free spirit, unconventional and independent. His desire for anonymity flew in the face of an age when people work to put their mark on every available surface.
Charles Feeney’s goal was to make the world work. His social conscience was enormous, and he believed in a vision that has powered a new model of giving.
The breadth and variety of beneficiaries of his wealth included support for organizations working for peace in Northern Ireland, supporting health care in Vietnam, to the brilliant technology hub on Roosevelt Island.
In a recent Forbes article, Warren Buffett said it best: “If you have the right heroes in life, you’re 90% of the way home. Chuck Feeney is a good hero to have.”