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John D. Rockefeller, Philanthropist

September 1, 2015

In his day, John D. Rockefeller was the richest man in the world.  He also left a fortune that still provides gifts to humankind and ranks in the top 20 of the largest U.S. Foundations.  His son, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. took the lead from his father and went into active charity giving almost on a full-time basis.  John D’s charity reach serves as a strong role model to many of today’s mega wealthy. jdr

Rockefeller’s charity was founded in his Baptist belief in tithing – giving 10% of his earnings to charity.  This started when he was not yet a teen and certainly before such contributions became tax deductible.

His early charity favored his church and Baptist organizations.  Because of this, he was a very generous supporter of Southern black organizations whose leaders were Baptists.  In his charity-giving he was color blind and that certainly was contra to prevailing racial prejudices.

Tithing is a common expression of charity.  Former presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, believes in it and actually surpasses the 10% measure.  I don’t know how Romney dispenses his charity, but for Rockefeller it became an overwhelming task leading to the formation of the precursor of today’s foundations with dedicated professional managers and a wide range of directors.  The Rockefeller Foundation has made its mark in medicine, disease research, education, the arts and most other activities that make our lives healthier, easier and more enjoyable.

Rockefeller’s grappling with giving is common to many of today’s super rich with wealth too great to leave to family without greatly altering life styles and values.  He seems to have developed his own solution with his evolving foundation type of set up.  Wealthy people, whether charitably minded or not, need to consider how they will leave their wealth and who will be responsible for carrying out their plans and implementing changes as future circumstances warrant.  Charitable giving seems to be a method of a grateful expression to the society that enabled them to flourish and succeed beyond what they could have imagined when starting out.

Life, being precarious, tells us that the sooner thoughts of what to do with wealth begins, the better the opportunity for successful implementation. Whatever your circumstances, if you haven’t yet made plans, now is a good time to start considering what you want to accomplish.

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