It sounds preposterous that there was a time in the United States when giving charity, awarding grants and creating foundations was scorned upon. Thankfully that’s not the case today. The story of the opposition to the creation of the Rockefeller Foundation is hopefully ancient history.
Forbes magazine prints an annual issue of the wealthiest people in the world, highlighting 400 of the 2,153 individuals known as billionaires. The ranking can never be fully accurate because the changing stock market can effect the list in a moment.
The most recent information is that Jeff Bezos CEO of Amazon is #1 and is the first centi-billionaire, with a net worth of $137 billion. His primary residence is in Medina, Washington in a $70 million estate, and he is at the top of most donor lists.
His neighbor in Medina, came in #2; Bill Gates. The principal founder of Microsoft lives in a $150 million web-connected complex. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, (the world’s largest charity), awards grants for educational and healthcare needs, and can be accessed by logging into GrantWatch.
Warren Buffet (#3), renown as the most successful investor in history, bought his first stock and filed his own taxes at the tender age of 13, and he itemized his bicycle as a $35 business expense because it was used to deliver newspapers. Buffet lives modestly in Omaha, Nebraska, in the house he purchased in 1958 for $31,500, and has promised to donate 99% of his $83 billion.
Bernard Arnault (#4) is the richest individual in Europe, and CEO of LVMH Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton SE which controls 70 high fashion brands, including; Sephora, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Fendi, and DKNY. LVMH Corporate Philanthropy, has supported a broad spectrum of causes for over 25 years.
Carlos Slim Helu (#5) controls a telecom empire in Mexico and other ventures that effects every aspect of Mexican life. It is said that residents wake up on bedding purchased at a Slim owned store, buy bread at a Slim bakery, drive a car insured by Slim, using a Slim telephone, eating in a Slim restaurant, while smoking a Slim cigar. His philanthropic work in Mexico is focused on access to broadband and Internet for all.
Amancio Ortega (#6), founded Inditex, the fashion group that includes Zara in it’s portfolio. This Spanish billionaire has donated €320 million towards cancer research, including 400 state-of-the-art medical early cancer detection devices across Spain.
These men have all received praise for their charity and good deeds, but it was not always that way.
In 1909, when John D. Rockefeller, the richest person in the world at the time, wanted to register the Rockefeller Foundation, as a nonprofit, he was met with strong opposition. President Teddy Roosevelt, believed that his company, Standard Oil was a monopoly and the creation of the Foundation was a smokescreen to fool the public. His administration successfully sued and broke it up to different companies. President William Taft his successor, was also against it’s creation believing Rockefeller used brutal business practices and was a labor union buster. Many citizens believed the foundation was created to gloss over the questionable way Rockefeller made his fortune.
Others, simply opined that any and all foundations were un-American, and there was no room for it’s plutocratic element in a democratic setting.
In the end the Rockefeller Foundation was established in New York on May 14, 1913, overcoming the opposition’s voices and continues it’s philanthropy today. Such has this organizations effect been on society that the United Nations assembles this week at the New York headquarters built on land donated by John D. Rockefeller Jr.
The worries of 2019 corporate giants are globalization and foreign competition. The regulators and lawmakers that worry about monopolies have government anti-trust laws at their disposal, which have been successfully used in the past. We will need to create a balance as we share this high-tech world with these highly successful, generous and philanthropic men and women.
Nowadays philanthropist and foundations wishing to spread the word about their grant applications can easily list them on directories like GrantWatch amongst other who support applicants in finding grants that work for them.
Hopefully the second guessing of motivating forces will end and foundations will always be judged by their actions and good deeds.
About the Author: Jake Tewel holds a Masters Degree from YU, a wine seller, caterer and a million miler for the past 15 years. Jake is a best friend, great neighbor, your go to travel person, father, grandfather and loving husband. He is now focusing his efforts on heart healthy nutrition, exercise and travel.