Legacy Givers – They sow – Society Reaps
Charitable giving is a cornerstone of change. Change matters. If it’s positive, humanity benefits. Lasting benefits make a mark throughout history. Lasting benefits can change the course of history. John D. Rockefeller instinctively knew that.
Rockefeller was a visionary. He saw that society had failed to address the needs of forgotten populations. He was determined to serve those needs. Charity was his vehicle.
Rockefeller’s philanthropy crossed religious, color and gender lines. He wanted to ensure everyone access to their full potential. He focused on benefits that would encourage and form sweeping changes in society. His philanthropy financed the promotion of education, health, scientific research, and religious and social services. This legacy has left a profound mark on humanity.
John D. Rockefeller gave away over half his fortune to help others. By time of Rockefeller’s death in 1937, at the age of 97, his charitable gifts exceeded $530 million dollars. By 1937 standards, that was an enormous amount of money. Adjusted for inflation, it would equal about $9.140 billion dollars in 2017. Rockefeller is often considered the wealthiest man in history. According to Forbes, the philanthropist’s assets would be worth 340 billion today.
During his lifetime, Rockefeller established 4 large foundations. One of these, The Rockefeller Foundation, holds 3.5 billion in charitable funds. Members of the Rockefeller family oversee the foundation’s far-reaching philanthropic interests.
Like most philanthropists, Rockefeller envisioned his donations creating positive change. And like many charitable givers, he was able to enjoy seeing his gifts start to make a positive effect before he died. Often, the change these donors produce reaches its greatest magnitude after their death. This is their legacy. It’s the good that exists and grows under the umbrella of their name. It’s the benefits people, communities, animals and environments receive from those who open their hearts and finances to them. These forever gifts produce benefits for the giver and the receiver.
Honoring Loved Ones
Charitable giving, through its works, can honor and keep alive the memory of loved ones. They are remembered through the lives that are impacted by the generosity attached to their names.
Gilda Radner, author, actress and comedian, died of ovarian cancer. Gilda’s husband was actor, author, screenwriter and producer, Gene Wilder. Wilder invested his grief in a mission of love. He became an activist and philanthropist fighting the disease that took his wife. He helped fund and promote care and research to combat ovarian cancer.
Wilder and friends founded Gilda’s Club and the Gilda Radner Hereditary Cancer Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Wilder memorialized Gilda with a legacy that continues to promote legislation, funding, education, care and cure. Gilda Radner’s memory lived on in Gene Wilder’s heart. Wilder also made sure Gilda’s spirit now lives on in the form of care for others and the fight for a cure.
Two Philanthropists – Two Agents of Change
Rockefeller gave on a grand scale. Wilder gave on a smaller but significant and critically important level. Both givers were and still are sowers of change. Both men had a fire that burned within them. They believed in their mission and committed to it with all their resources.
Charitable givers, big and small, are in tune with the vision of Rockefeller and Wilder. Legacy philanthropists make a commitment to themselves and to society. Their caring hearts and generosity purchase hope for the hopeless. Millions now, and millions more in generations to come, will reap what these donors have sown.
Legacy Donors – Their Motivation
Legacy donors plan for their gifts to breathe life far beyond their earthly existence. Making their charitable giving mark and being remembered are not the most important reasons for these donors’ gifts.
- They want to know their lives mattered.
- They want to show gratitude for life’s blessings.
- They want to birth a “giving conscience” in others.
- They want to create a “pass it on” challenge.
- They want to become agents of change.
- Plant the seed. Grow a tree.
- Read the book. Nurture the child.
- Make the sandwiches. Feed the hungry.
- Initiate sustainable agriculture programs. Help populations to create food sources.
- Advocate for funding. Establish the hospital.
- Hammer the nail. Build the habitat.
- March the march. Promote the cure.
- Shine a light of truth. Protect the unprotected.
The Reach of Legacy Philanthropy
Wealth does not define the power to give or the impact of the gift. Rosa Parks was a woman of color, a domestic worker, a hospital aide and a seamstress. On December1, 1955, in the racially divided city of Montgomery, Alabama, Mrs. Parks made history. She refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white passenger. She was arrested.
That arrest spurred on the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It was an important event that moved masses to fight segregation. It was a pivotal point in the Civil Rights Movement. On that otherwise uneventful winter day, Rosa Parks had no idea how large a legacy she was creating. Something moved within her soul and the petite, 5’3” woman took a stand that would echo throughout history. She became an unintentional agent of change.
Rosa Parks was not a Rockefeller. But she could stand shoulder to shoulder with him or any financial titan when it came to moving mountains to effect societal change. Her gift to benefit humanity was not planned. You could say it was spontaneous. It was a courage of commitment, driven by a passion for righteousness.
Rosa Parks put her personal safety at risk to take a stand for equality and dignity. She did not drop a single coin in the fountain of philanthropy. She poured her grace upon its water. Her gift was pursuing a more perfect world for all humankind. It’s value is too great to be measured.
Another bus, 7,700 miles from Alabama and nearly sixty years later . . .
On October 9, 2012, a Taliban bullet ripped through the head of a twelve-year-old Pakistani girl sitting on a school bus. Her crime? She was an outspoken crusader for human rights and the rights of education for women and children. Malala Yousafzai survived this horrendous attack which nearly cost the child activist her life.
But, the Taliban underestimated their adversary. Within Malala beat the heart of a fearless lioness. Even during her recovery, she inspired millions around the world to join her cause. Today, Malala’s work has grown into an international movement. The Malala Fund’s advocacy impacts lives on a global scale. At www.malala.org, millions are educated and encouraged to get involved.
Malala’s cause for equal education in Northern Pakistan stopped the Taliban’s restriction of girls attending school in Pakistan. From her native country, Malala’s movement has caught fire worldwide. Its advocacy continues to spread throughout areas where women and girls struggle for equality on many levels. Now an author and the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala remains a tireless campaigner for female rights.
The progress in Pakistan continues. Although not yet at its peak, it has made powerful moves in the right direction. Pakistani government programs offer stipends to families whose daughters attend school. Through the state education board’s partnership with the private sector; tuition-free primary education schools now exist in some areas. The number of girls taking advantage of these programs is growing. Government and individual attitudes have advanced steadily in the direction of support for women’s education.
Malala’s legacy gives an equal voice to women around the world. Through education and the opportunities it brings them and their daughters, these women will create change as well. Who knows how many among them will move mountains like Malala Yousafzai and Rosa Parks!?
You Are a Change Maker
Remember, you determine your legacy gifts and their positive power. Not even the restriction from wealth, access, or position, can stop your ability to effect change. You and the passion of your commitment can help to create a better world just like a Rockefeller or a Wilder. Just like a Parks and a Yousafzai.
There are no boundaries when you are blind to barriers and see only what can be. Let Rosa Parks’ words live in you and encourage you. “Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds, will continue in others.”
Be the change you want to see in the world. Invest in charitable giving.
Be proud of your legacy! YOU ARE POWERFUL!