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Financial Planning > Charitable Giving

Favorite 10 Philanthropists: Carnegie, Oprah, Aguilera & More

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Helping the larger community has become an important part of being wealthy. More than just a way to avoid taxes, many find that giving is more satisfying than making the money in the first place. The steel magnate Andrew Carnegie laid out the philosophy of helping others as a duty of the elite in an essay in the late 19th century. That philosophy has become a touchstone through the years with pop celebrities, financiers and industrialists embracing Carnegie’s call. Some, like Blake Mycoskie and Paul Newman, have even incorporated giving into their business models.

AdvisorOne offers this list of our favorites from U.S. history to the present. Many others were worthy of inclusion, of course.

Paul Newman10. Paul Newman: Making Charity His Own

Paul Newman is, of course, a Hollywood icon. But he is as much a legend for what he did away from the silver screen than what he did on it. Grocery store shelves are lined with Newman’s Own products–spaghetti sauce, salsa, chips, lemonade and the signature salad dressing that started it all–and the profits go to charity. The Newman’s Own Foundation has given more than $300 million away over the years, with Newman’s favorite charity, a string of 11 camps around the world dedicated to allowing seriously ill children to ”raise a little hell” being a major benefactor. Christina Aguilera9. Christina Aguilera: Motherhood Sparks Need to Give

OK, she doesn’t have the gravitas of  Carnegie and the others, but Christina Aguilera, who has had a successful career with hits like “Beautiful,” “Car Wash” and “Can’t Hold Us Down,” has been active in charitable causes, too.

The inspiration, she told InStyle magazine, was becoming a mother. Since then she’s been particularly active in the World Food Program, saying she just can’t stand the thought of children going to bed hungry. Who can argue that that doesn’t have gravitas?

Howard Hughes8. Howard Hughes: A Legacy Overcomes an Image

Howard Hughes’ reputation has taken a beating over the years. The sad image of a mentally ill man has replaced that of the dashing aircraft pioneer, movie mogul and billionaire who dated the world’s most beautiful women. But one part of his legacy can’t be erased: the creation of the Howard Hughes Medial Institute in 1953. The institute is dedicated to biomedical research and has greatly expanded since the billionaire’s death in 1984. The institute has an endowment of $14 billion and in 2010 spent nearly $900 million on scientific research, grants and capital expenditures.

George Harrison7. George Harrison: Inventing the Charity Concert

Without George Harrison, there wouldn’t have been a Live Aid, a Farm Aid or any of the other rock concerts for charity that have raked in cash for good causes over the last 40 years. On Aug. 1, 1971, Harrison’s idea of a benefit to help ease a famine came to life. The Concert for Bangladesh raised about  $240,000 and Harrison’s subsequent single, “Bangladesh,” has raised more than $17 million for UNICEF projects in that country and others. Harrison was joined by Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and others. Another Beatle was there to give a little help to a friend: Ringo Starr.

The other Beatles had their philanthropic pursuits, too. Paul McCartney is well known for his support of animals through PETA, and John Lennon held his own charity concert, this one to help mentally handicapped children in 1972. He also gave much time and energy to peace causes in the 1970s.

Johns Hopkins6. Johns Hopkins: A Bequest Funds an Iconic Institution

Johns Hopkins was a financier, real-estate speculator and, above all, a philanthropist. His works were well known in the Baltimore of the mid-19th century. Now, nearly 140 years after his death, his fame has spread around the globe. That’s because of a single bequest in his will. Hopkins left $7 million, the bulk of it in Baltimore & Ohio railroad stock, for the establisment of a free hospital and university. Johns Hopkins University is an elite school and its hospital is renowned for its top-flight care and research.

Andrew Carnegie5. Andrew Carnegie: An Essay Sparks a Philosophy

The race among the current day wealthy to give away their fortunes is well documented. Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, among others, have pledged to use their money to further the greater good. The idea might seem new, but Andrew Carnegie, who made his fortune in the 19th century in the steel business, laid out the strategy in an essay published in 1889. In “The Gospel of Wealth,” the steel titan espoused the idea that the rich were “trustees” of their wealth and were duty bound to use it for the public good. His money built libraries in 2,509 communities in the English-speaking world. In all, he gave away $350 million. And remember, that was when a million dollars was real money.

Julius Rosenwald4. Julius Rosenwald: Beating Jim Crow

His name might not be as well known as it was a century ago when he was part owner and president of Sears, Roebuck & Co., but his legacy is remembered across the South. Concerned about the social situation of African Americans in the country, Rosenwald turned to Booker T. Washington for counsel. With Rosenwald’s money as seed grants, construction was completed on about 5,000 buildings in 15 states, including schools, shops and teachers’ houses which were built by and for African Americans. In the days of Jim Crow segregation, Rosenwald provided the means for blacks to get the education they were denied. In all, the Rosenwald Fund provided $28 million from 1912 until 1932. 

Oprah Winfrey3. Oprah Winfrey: The Power of Media Queen

Oprah is everywhere (well, she did give up her daily talk show), and her giving is no secret. In 1997, she started Oprah’s Angel Network, which has helped establish 60 schools in 13 countries, create scholarships, support women’s shelters and build youth centers and homes. And Oprah is not shy about putting herself on the line. In 1991, she led a campaign for Congress to pass the National Child Protection Act, even testifying before the Senate. President Bill Clinton signed the so-called “Oprah Bill” into law in 1993.

J.K. Rowling2. J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter Fortune Aids Kids

J.K. Rowling made her fortune with magic through the Harry Potter books and movies. She used part of her vast earnings to help various causes, including the Multiple Sclerosis Society Scotland and Amnesty International. Her biggest philanthropic endeavor was helping start the Children’s High Level Group (now named Lumos in the U.K.) in 1995, to help kids living in horrific conditions in Eastern European institutions. As the group expands its mission to other countries they get a big boost from Rowling. A special edition of “The Tales of the Beadle Bard,” a collection of children’s stories, raised about $3 million for the charity.

Blake Mycoskie1. Blake Mycoskie: Shodding the World One by One

Not every great philanthropist needs to make a fortune and then turn to the work of giving it away. Blake Mycoskie is a case in point. Sure, he had success starting five businesses before he was inspired to start TOMS Shoes. A world traveler, Mycoskie was in Argentina when he saw children struggling without even a pair of shoes to protect their feet. He went back to Los Angeles, where he lives on a sailboat, and founded TOMS Shoes, whose business model mandates that for every pair of shoes sold a pair is given to a child in need. The idea has been successful: More than a million children have received shoes through the One for One program.

(Photos on pages 1-3, 5, 7, 9-11 by The Associated Press)


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