Lessons from famous female philanthropists
How we can give big – and be smart about it.
MacKenzie Scott made headlines when she gave part of her Amazon fortune away after divorcing Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. And she’s not the only woman who’s made waves in the philanthropy space. Melinda French Gates and Priscilla Chan shine in their own right.
Wondering how you can follow in their footsteps by blazing your own philanthropic path?
Do your due diligence
Upon her divorce from Bezos, MacKenzie was praised for the colossal donations she made to charity. In particular, she was hailed for the variety of charities she gave to – and the depth of research she conducted before committing to those charities.
The lesson to take from MacKenzie’s approach is to conduct your due diligence before donating to an organization, regardless of how much you donate. Be sure the charity aligns with your values and is fulfilling your philanthropic objectives. MacKenzie evaluates organizations based on their “potential for sustained positive impact” and analyzes finances, outcomes and whether the leadership is representative of the community served. Your criteria can differ, but having your own methodology will ensure you’re supporting organizations doing work that’s meaningful to you.
Bill Gates himself has reportedly said he probably wouldn’t have contributed as much to charity without the urging of his (now ex-) wife Melinda. She’s known for collaborating with others on charitable endeavors (beyond the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), such as founding – with Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway – the Maverick Collective, an organization that has contributed more than $1 million to women’s health.
Melinda’s approach illustrates that collective giving is a powerful tool to make your contributions go further. There are many “giving circles,” or organizations focused on identifying local giving opportunities or specific causes. Philanthropytogether.org publishes a directory listing more than 2,500 giving circles. Grapevine.com is another great resource, one through which you can join various giving circles directly.
Create your own giving entity
From supporting education and technology to funding healthcare and science, Priscilla Chan and her husband, Facebook cofounder Mark Zuckerberg, are among the most generous American philanthropists. Together they have a philanthropic limited liability company called the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative that includes investment, charity and advocacy arms.
Priscilla’s approach of creating a giving entity, like a donor-advised fund (DAF) can be a great option for the right financial situation. You can contribute to the fund over time, and then donate from it to charities of your choice when you’re ready. You’ll get the tax deduction now but can wait to distribute your contributions until the fund has grown, or until you find the perfect nonprofit to support. Want to involve your children? Ask them to recommend charities so they feel like they have a say – and the power to make a difference.
While you can look to each of these women for inspiration, dig deep to discover what will work best for you and help you reach your own giving goals.
As you embark on your philanthropic journey:
- Take the time to conduct due diligence for any organization you plan to donate to
- Consider joining a giving circle to maximize impact
- Talk with your advisor about whether creating a charitable vehicle is right for your financial situation