When you think about philanthropy throughout history, these are the names that come to mind: Carnegie, Gates, Buffet, Bloomberg ... But philanthropists aren't always famous, prominent or even outrageously wealthy. If you look closely, you'll find there are some pretty badass philanthropists beneath the surface.
When it comes to philanthropy, there are many misconceptions. People have this idealistic picture of what a generous person looks like, and, most of the time, it's completely inaccurate.
“One of the greatest challenges for philanthropy today is the very term itself — philanthropy,” says Jean Case, CEO of a nonprofit based in Washington, DC. “Chances are that when asked, most people would associate the word with wealthy individuals writing big checks to charity. Yet, look up the word and etymologically, it simply means a 'love of humanity.'”
Is it great when a wealthy individual gives millions of dollars to charity? Absolutely, and many organizations rely on these large donations, but this isn't the extent of philanthropy. Micro-giving also matters.
Political affiliations aside, this was one thing that was incredible to watch as Senator Bernie Sanders rose from relative anonymity to almost becoming the Democratic nominee. While other candidates relied on large donations from corporations and Super PACs, Sanders fueled his entire campaign on small donations of roughly $27 per supporter.
While it's not totally appropriate to relate philanthropy to political fundraising, this simply drives home the point that small donations matter just as much as large ones.
Ultimately, being a badass philanthropist isn't about the money you give. Some give billions while others give hundreds. The point is that they're sacrificing time, money, resources and energy because of a “love of humanity.”
Now, let's take a look at six philanthropists that are currently killing it. In fact, you've probably never heard of any of them, but they're doing a lot right.
1. Azim Premji
Meet tech tycoon Azim Premji. He's one of India's wealthiest individuals, striking it rich in a number of industries. From cooking oil and bakery fats to toiletries, lighting products, and hydraulic cylinders, Premji has made billions in his lifetime. By some estimates, he's worth at least $15 billion. But again, don't get caught up in the number. The number only matters because it's the reason he signed Bill Gates' Giving Pledge.
As you may know, the giving pledge is designed to engage the world's wealthiest individuals by encouraging them to set aside the majority of their wealth to help philanthropies in their communities. With Premji's wealth, he's able to sign this pledge and make a big difference. In fact, just days after signing it, Premji donated $2.2 billion to the Azim Premji Foundation. He's donated billions more already, and the 70-year-old is looking to give away the rest in the coming years.
2. Herb Sandler
Herb Sandler is the co-founder of Golden West Financial Corporation. To date, he's dedicated more than half of his fortune to various charitable causes. But what really sets Sandler apart from other philanthropists is that he donates his money to causes that he has a lot of experience with.
Instead of donating to causes that others are involved with, Sandler prefers to give money to philanthropic pursuits that expound upon his background: finance. According to Sandler's donor profile on Inside Philanthropy, “The Sandlers helped create a number of progressive organizations, including the Center for American Progress, the Center for Responsible Lending, and the American Constitution Society. The Sandler Foundation is also a major supporter of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, and select other progressive groups.”
3. Wendy Paulson
When it comes to the power couple of Hank and Wendy Paulson, most people are more familiar with Hank. He's the former United States Secretary of the Treasury and served as the CEO of Goldman Sachs for a number of years. And while Hank certainly does his fair share of charitable giving, it's his wife who has an even more active role in the couple's philanthropic activity.
Wendy is an incredibly interesting person. Not only does she give a lot of money away, but she's actively involved in the causes she funds. In Barrington Public Schools, she's affectionately known as “The Nature Lady” because of her dedication to environmental education and bird classes. She's interested in preserving the environment and will do whatever it takes to get others involved.
4. Gert Boyle
Following her husband's death in 1970, Gert Boyle took over Columbia Sportswear and turned it into the thriving company that it is today. But there's something more special than her business acumen and charm. Boyle is an avid supporter of a variety of philanthropies — especially those related to children with special needs.
In 1995, Boyle outfitted Team USA in the Special Olympics and has been a fundamental supporter ever since. Furthermore, the royalties from her autobiography are donated directly to the Special Olympics and Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children.
Recently, Boyle anonymously gave $100 million to Oregon Health and Science University's Knight Cancer College. However, the press leaked her name.
“I've given away quite a bit, and it's always anonymous because I love the reputation that I'm cheap and I don't do anything,” Boyle said at the time. “Some people like to have their name on a fountain or a building or a bar. I've always felt it was my decision who to give to. I don't like people pointing the finger at me. I like slipping under the radar.”
5. Duncan MacMillan
Duncan MacMillan is one of the lesser-known founders of Bloomberg, L.P, but that doesn't stop him from giving away his time and wealth to help those in need. Like Premji, MacMillan has signed The Giving Pledge.
It's impossible to count all of the charities and organizations MacMillan and his wife contribute to. The Princeton Healthcare System Foundation, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, Michael J. Fox Foundation, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park Conservancy, NYC Food Bank and American Repertory Ballet are just a few.
It's not the amount of money MacMillan and his wife contribute that's so astonishing – it's the time. They spend so much time working with organizations and facilitating giving that it's amazing they're able to do anything else.
6. Eli Verschleiser
In the close -knit religious Jewish circles, philanthropy is often built into everyday life. It is common to find an organization that deals with every possible need for the less fortunate in any situation. Eli Verschleiser takes on the less glorious causes amongst them.
As a young adult and teenager, Eli went through some turbulent times. In his early 20s, he was fortunate to find his way onto a path of financial success. It was then that he decided to make it his life's mission to help those less fortunate and in need.
Eli takes on new projects that are “typically swept under the rug.” In addition to funding such causes, he spends much of his time building organizations related to assisting kids on the streets and promoting education on the topic of sexual abuse prevention.
Anyone can be a philanthropist.
It's easy to study these six incredible people and think to yourself, “There's no way I could ever do half of what they're doing.” Do you have a love of humanity? If so, you have all of the motivation you need to move from idea to action.
It'll certainly take other resources, but you're well on your way to becoming the next badass philanthropist.