It is not uncommon for successful business people and companies to make large donations to various causes. Not only are these donations tax deductible, but these philanthropists have the opportunity to impact the lives and charities that are important to them.
While there are just as many billionaires who make not prioritizing philanthropy, it’s exciting to hear the stories of those who do. Individuals who have amassed great wealth are able to help so many, and those who are involved in their communities can do so locally to tap into the power of their giving.
Once in a while you hear of a wealthy person who gives back with the intention of doing good and changing lives. Some of the country’s ultra-rich have made it their mission to give back on a grand scale. More recently, MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, went on a wonderful spending spree by donating nearly $3.9 billion to 465 nonprofits in nine months, bringing his total donations to more than $12 billion to charitable causes and groups. Although his net worth is still hovering around $40 billion, the generosity is admirable.
A lesser-known individual may be Chuck Feeney, who donated all the money he earned from duty-free shopping to worthy causes through his Atlantic Philanthropies. This foundation gave $8 billion over three decades, and it was mostly done in secret. At 89, Feeney has now given up her home and lives in a rented apartment.
“I strongly believe in giving while living,” Feeney said. “I see no reason to delay donations when so much good can be achieved by supporting worthy causes today. Plus, it’s a lot more fun to give while you’re alive than to give while you’re alive.
Many philanthropists choose to focus their efforts locally, improving the communities in which they live and work. One “little guy champion” is Melaleuca executive chairman Frank VanderSloot, who Forbes reports has a net worth of $3.1 billion.
Growing up in squalor on a small farm in northern Idaho, VanderSloot is often moved by the stories of families in need. In 2020, VanderSloot created a consumer protection fund for Idahoans from overly aggressive attorneys and medical debt collectors using unscrupulous tactics. He spent millions to save an Idaho cheese factory, even though he had no stake in the business, just to save 115 family farms that supplied the factory with milk (to keep them from going bankrupt). Additionally, he restored a historic school at a cost of $2 million before donating its use to the public school system. Although VanderSloot donates to a wide variety of charities, many of which operate globally, VanderSloot seems to have a special place in his heart for helping members of his community.
A regional CEO of the American Red Cross agrees. Referring to VanderSloot and its company, Nicole Sirak Irwin said, “Melaleuca is a wonderful example of a company that cares about humanity and helps those in need. They have repeatedly come to the rescue in times of disaster and have made a difference in countless lives.
Of course, VanderSloot isn’t the only billionaire to have donated money, time and materials to nonprofits where he grew up, lived or worked. Jimmy Rane, Alabama’s wealthiest person, has taken a similar approach to philanthropy. Rane lives in his small hometown of Abbeville and has made it his personal mission to revitalize the town.
Harry Stine of Iowa still resides with his family in Adel, where his grandparents first moved in the late 1800s. Like VanderSloot, Stine grew up on a farm and never left. He donates extensively to Iowa-based charities, particularly to support agricultural development in the state.
Prosperous investor Warren Buffett was born in Omaha in 1930 and has lived there with his family continuously since 1956. The ‘Oracle of Omaha’ has now donated $48 billion to charity, setting a new record for charitable donations.
In New Mexico, Mack C. Chase holds the wealthiest resident title. Although not a billionaire, Chase is worth $700 million and has his headquarters in the town where he grew up, Artesia. Through his foundation, Chase has donated millions to schools, students, sports fields, health care facilities and downtown Artesia.
In South Carolina, Anita Zucker used part of her $2.6 billion fortune to invest in educational causes in her home state. T. Denny Sanford in South Dakota also has a thing for kids; he has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to children’s hospitals and medical schools in hopes of improving children’s lives.
As Frank VanderSloot said in a 2018 interview, “When you see someone needs help, you reach out and try to help them. And that makes your life better, and if you don’t don’t, I think you’re missing out on all the blessings that come with the opportunity you had and missed it.