Andrew Carnegie’s Library and Museums Are Forging the Future in the Steel City
“I feel lucky that I came to such a friendly city,” says Dutian Zeng, a former after-school teacher from China and a newcomer to Pittsburgh. “I feel even luckier that, because of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, I’m not a stranger and I’m no longer lonely.”
At the Library, Zeng tapped into her passion for working with children. She partnered with staff to create a list of 100 famous American and Chinese picture books for the Library to exchange with a school in her old hometown of Wuhan in Central China. Thanks to the joy of reading, children thousands of miles apart were brought together.
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is one of more than 2,500 libraries founded by Andrew Carnegie. Andrew Carnegie is known for many things: he was a visionary entrepreneur, a business leader, and an innovative philanthropist. Yet he is perhaps most celebrated for investing more than $55 million in libraries, earning him recognition as the “patron saint of libraries.”
“Here at the main library, right above the doors, it says Free to the People — and that really is our guiding principle,” says Molly Bennett, Pittsburgh Library’s director of communications and creative services. “We are open to everyone and our mission is to engage our whole community in literacy and learning.”
Since its inception in 1895, the Library has moved with the times and continues to look to the future. In addition to providing many electronic books, laptops for loan, and hotspots to help bridge the digital divide, Carnegie Library will soon offer coding lessons and, in response to Pittsburgh’s increasingly diverse population, will make more works available in translation in an even wider range of languages.
Andrew Carnegie once said, “A library outranks any other thing a community can do to benefit its people,” and nearly a century after his death, Zeng and many others continue to enjoy an institution he cherished so deeply.
Another institution beloved by residents and visitors alike is Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, comprised of Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Science Center, and The Andy Warhol Museum.
“I think Andrew Carnegie would be particularly proud of what his museums have become: a family of four distinctive, dynamic museums that, collectively, reach nearly 1.5 million people a year, including hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren,” observes Carnegie Museums’ board member Bill Hunt.
Whether it’s Dinosaurs in Their Time, the natural history museum’s impressive core exhibition, or the Science Center’s popular sports and science-related exhibits, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh strives to bring the best in art, science, and history to the Steel City, just as their original benefactor intended.
“His vision is entrenched in our vision now,” says Betsy Momich, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh’s director of corporate communications. “We live and breathe it every day.”
A century after Andrew Carnegie’s passing, the museums are staying true to his mission while adapting to modern times. The dinosaur exhibition is now nearly three times the size of the original, The Andy Warhol Museum is North America’s most comprehensive single-artist museum, and the Science Center will soon open a four-story pavilion featuring everything from large-scale exhibitions to a digital giant-screen theater.
“Some have wondered what our founding father would have thought of bringing a Science Center and The Andy Warhol Museum into the Carnegie Museums fold in the 1900s. I feel certain he wouldn’t have just liked the idea; he would have demanded it!” says Hunt.
None of us know what the next century will bring. What we do know is that Andrew Carnegie’s library and museums will continue to embrace recent arrivals, such as Dutian Zheng, bringing literacy, learning, and opportunity to the Pittsburgh community.
Philanthropy is a relatively young field in terms of innovation (#GivingTuesday, microgiving), but it can trace it roots to ancient traditions. Social entrepreneurship has helped remake the philanthropic landscape in recent years, but many still cite the great religious texts as their reason for giving. Joan and Irwin Jacobs touch upon both the old and the new, embracing the best of philanthropy past and present, and applying themselves with intelligence and passion to the task. They are an extraordinary couple.
Joan and Irwin were both raised in Jewish homes in the Northeast — homes steeped in the tradition of giving, not only as a family matter, but also as a religious duty. The similarity of their backgrounds has helped inform their decision-making as philanthropists. Speaking to the San Diego Union Tribune, Joan said, “Our families were philanthropic, but on a very different level. They gave to the local synagogue, but not in any major way. We both came from very humble homes. We’re very fortunate to be able to do what we’re doing now.”
Early on, each was aware of the Jewish obligation of tzedakah, with memories of placing small coins in a box (called a pushke). Monies collected would go to the synagogue or to another worthy cause. As the Jacobses found greater and greater professional and financial success, the coins and the pushke definitely — so to speak — expanded, and they would eventually sign The Giving Pledge, joining the commitment made by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to give the majority of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes either during their lifetime or in their wills. While their motivations may have been time-honored, the efforts and causes to which Joan and Irwin Jacobs are inspired to contribute are resolutely modern and forward-looking.
Irwin made his fortune through the technology company Qualcomm, while Joan found success as a dietician. The fields are quite different, but the couple are united in crediting their achievements to the educational opportunities they were afforded — and naturally enough, education became a major part of their giving. Numerous universities have been recipients of their philanthropy, most notably Cornell University: the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, a cornerstone of Cornell Tech’s new campus on New York City’s Roosevelt Island, will create “pioneering leaders and technologies for the digital age.” Clearly, for the Jacobses education and science are top priorities, and they have also given hundreds of millions of dollars to the likes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California San Diego, and the Salk Institute (where Irwin served as chairman of the board for a decade).
Moving beyond education and science, the couple has made a name for themselves in San Diego by providing unwavering support for such worthwhile endeavors as the La Jolla Playhouse, the central library, and the San Diego Symphony — this last the beneficiary of a lifesaving infusion of funds. The couple stays involved with the arts locally, science nationally, and education globally — and the aim is to inspire others to follow suit. In their giving, Joan and Irwin Jacobs have continued to live by the Jewish concept of tzedakah, the responsibility to give aid, assistance, and money to worthwhile causes, which they first absorbed as children. The little coin box may have grown immensely, and helped build a building or two or three — or more. But the message remains the same: if you can give a portion of your personal substance to the common good, it is your responsibility to do so. In fact, Judaism teaches that the donors benefit even more than the beneficiaries from tzedakah. An ancient idea, perhaps, but today it seems more relevant than ever.
To quote Fred Kavli, philanthropy “sort of gives you a purpose in life.” But those words of wisdom didn’t come from a man who was aimlessly searching for something to do. Kavli made a fortune through his technology company, Kavlico Corporation, as well as through savvy real estate investments. Significantly, the physicist always kept pure science as a key part of his life, and when he sold his company in 2000 he was able to unite his scientific and philanthropic passions. In his business ventures, Kavli used his laser-sharp focus to get the very best results, and he went on to craft a unique niche for himself within the broader world of philanthropy.
After earning a degree in applied physics at the Norwegian Institute of Technology, Kavli moved to the United States hoping to make use of his engineering skills. He found success creating sophisticated sensors that were put to wide use — in engines, washing machines, and even on space shuttles. The incredibly precise nature of his technological and business achievements both contrast with and mirror his later work in philanthropy. While Kavli retained the intense focus that had served him well in business, as a philanthropist he adjusted his expectations. Well aware of how scientific discoveries happen, he proved to be the perfect donor to support cutting-edge work.
While many philanthropists direct their wealth to a variety of causes, Kavli focused almost exclusively on science. There were exceptions: he was integral to a theater built in Thousand Oaks, California, and he gave to local institutions, including Moorpark College, the Boy Scouts, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. But those are small fry compared to the leviathan-sized science projects he created and supported. Starting in 2008, Kavli began funding research institutes that specialized in astrophysics, nanoscience, neuroscience, and theoretical physics. Currently there are 17 such institutes at some of the most esteemed universities in the world, including Caltech, Yale, Harvard, Stanford, the University of Tokyo, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. This is particularly noteworthy because there are no strings attached to these funds — they were put into place without dictating what needed to be discovered or what problems were to be solved. Instead, Kavli provided funds for research that of its very nature doesn’t necessarily have an eventual end in sight.
Some of the researchers at Kavli Institutes have gone on to win major prizes, including the Nobel Prize. Nevertheless, Kavli believed that truly groundbreaking science wasn’t getting the attention it deserved, so he created the Kavli Prizes, which focus on the categories of astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience. He envisioned that the prize would someday be on par with the Nobel, and in order to spur on both the competition and scientific advances, each laureate of the Kavli Prize receives one million dollars. So, thanks to Kavli’s passion for science, many researchers are now well funded, empowered to dive deep into questions both very big and very small. What is the nature of “dark matter”? How do brain structures affect cognition? How can one control matter on the nanoscale? Fred Kavli’s philanthropy will have a long afterlife: the research that he funded could well have an immense impact on all our lives, supporting and recognizing, as the Kavli Prize does, “pioneering advances in our understanding of existence at its biggest, smallest, and most complex scales.”
While the Cadbury name is all but synonymous with chocolate, the family has long placed as much emphasis on philanthropy and good works as it has on its business ventures. In fact, from the beginning the enterprise was rooted in first doing good, with profits a secondary consideration. When chocolatier John Cadbury (1801–1889) established a manufacturing business in the early 1830s, he was already a veteran campaigner for social injustice, fighting the exploitation of child chimney sweeps, the horrors of animal cruelty, and other social ills. Drinking chocolate was not just a treat, but was also intended as a way to tempt people away from the dangers of alcohol.
Helping the disadvantaged, either by campaigning for the rights of the poor or working to alleviate the alcohol-related causes of poverty, was ingrained in the Cadbury family’s belief system. As Quakers, they battled the evils of slavery, alcoholism, poverty, and many other social problems. John Cadbury may have left the chocolate industry due to declining health in 1861, handing over the business to his two sons Richard and George, but he spent the remainder of his life dedicated to civic and social work.
At first it was slow going for the next generation of Cadbury chocolatiers, but in time the business enjoyed massive success with British consumers. The company soon needed to expand, and the family was determined to establish something better than the oppressive and dangerous factories that were then commonplace as the Industrial Revolution boomed. So instead of erecting a routine manufacturing works, the Cadbury brothers built the model village of Bournville, about four miles south of Birmingham, starting with a factory that gave the employees such unheard of amenities as “a kitchen where workers could heat up their meals, and properly heated dressing rooms where they could get changed.” The worker’s village included a garden, playgrounds, and athletic fields, and employees were ensured of getting both good wages and medical treatment. As George Cadbury said, “If the country is a good place to live in, why not to work in?”
Future generations of the Cadbury family continued the tradition of taking care of their workers by providing days off, pension plans, and unemployment benefits — and this in addition to the profits that went into causes such as promoting pension reform, fighting worker exploitation, and anti-war efforts. It was John Cadbury’s grandson, Barrow Cadbury, who truly cemented the family’s reputation as not just purveyors of chocolate to the British Empire, but as philanthropists whose passion for social activism was profoundly informed by their Quaker beliefs. Named chairman of Cadbury in 1918, two years later Barrow Cadbury, with his wife, Geraldine, set up the Barrow Cadbury Trust. Following the Quaker ideal of speaking truth to power, today the Trust tackles a number of challenging issues, including “gender-based disadvantage” and racism in all its forms, while working to bring about structural changes to create a “more just and equal society.” The Trust respects its historical roots in Quaker values, although it now embraces “all faiths and none.”
The current generation of the Cadbury family hasn’t strayed far from their chocolate or their philanthropic roots. While Kraft took over the Cadbury brand in 2010, the family continues its tradition of service: today the majority of trustees of the Barrow Cadbury Trust are direct descendants of Barrow and Geraldine Cadbury. What’s more, James Cadbury — the great-great-great grandson of John Cadbury — is getting into the chocolate business himself with Love Cocoa. The chocolate is fair trade and is made in Britain — plus 10% of the profits are donated to charity. A very sweet tradition.
Giving is part of America’s character, culture, and economy. It is an engine for ingenuity in the United States, and it is part of our nation’s social contract.
On October 3, 2017, members of the family of Carnegie institutions from Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States gathered to honor nine remarkable individuals who have followed in the footsteps of our institutions’ founder, Andrew Carnegie. These extraordinary philanthropists, who collectively have donated several billion dollars to a broad swath of worthy causes, received the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in a biennial celebration at The New York Public Library. It was the ninth such ceremony the Carnegie institutions have hosted since 2001.
The Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy provides an opportunity to celebrate Carnegie’s own rich philanthropic legacy, as well as his philosophy of giving, outlined in his most celebrated treatise, The Gospel of Wealth. Even though it was published in 1889, more than a century later this essay still serves to remind the world of the importance and prevalence of philanthropy in all our lives. Today, the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy promotes that same goal.
In the 1830s, decades before Carnegie penned The Gospel of Wealth, the French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville coined the concept of American “exceptionalism” in his classic Democracy in America, in which he marveled that Americans “willingly sacrifice a portion of their time and property” to improve the welfare of their fellow citizens. Since that time, American philanthropy has witnessed many extraordinary acts of generosity. During World War I, for example, humanity witnessed one of the greatest philanthropic acts in history: Americans raised more than $100 million to support Near East Relief in its efforts to save hundreds of thousands of orphans, many of whom lost their families during the Armenian Genocide. The monumental endeavor was hardly an incidental event, however. Rather, it demonstrated the roots, range, and depth of American giving.
In 2016 alone, Americans donated some $390 billion to charitable causes, nearly three quarters of which came not from foundations or corporations, but from individuals hailing from all walks of life.
Today, this generosity of spirit continues. In 2016 alone, Americans donated some $390 billion to charitable causes, nearly three quarters of which came not from foundations or corporations, but from individuals hailing from all walks of life. In addition, the United States also regularly ranks at or near the top of the World Giving Index. These numbers do not take into account the nearly 7.8 billion volunteer hours Americans donate to educational, health, religious, cultural, environmental, and other causes, comprising an array of institutions and ideological views.
It is difficult to find a library, hospital, or school that has not benefitted from philanthropy. These institutions make up America’s flourishing and diverse independent sector, and this diversity is part of what makes our nation so strong. Neither government nor philanthropy can sustain our nation’s nonprofit institutions alone—they must work together to help keep our democracy dynamic and thriving.
The prevalence of partnerships between the public and private sectors is unique to the United States. Unlike many other countries, we do not, for example, have a single federal science ministry or a Department of Culture. Rather, we have a broad array of higher education institutions that are the envy of the world; a range of outstanding orchestras, museums, and theaters; and thousands of social service agencies that provide vital programs to the underprivileged and underserved. It is the generosity of American citizens from all backgrounds that makes the contributions of these institutions possible.
The importance and breadth of public-private partnerships in the United States is perhaps best reflected in our nation’s K–12 education system. It is governed by a patchwork of local, state, and federal bodies, and features an array of schooling options: traditional public schools, charter schools, and private and parochial schools. This system is supported by a broad range of nonprofit education organizations focused on both direct services and reform. Philanthropy, in turn, supports a great number of these institutions’ work. In this way, the philanthropic sector promotes necessary research and innovation for education reform.
Indeed, in partnering with nonprofit agencies, foundations serve as laboratories supporting experimentation for the nation. As the ninth president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, John Gardner, put it, the independent sector is one “in which we are allowed to pursue truth, even if we are going in the wrong direction; allowed to experiment, even if we are bound to fail; to map unknown territory, even if we get lost.”
Of course, the nonprofit world could not exist without favorable public policy, including charitable tax deductions. When Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller originated the concept of “scientific philanthropy” more than a century ago, there were no tax incentives to motivate their generosity. But since their inception, charitable tax deductions have served as a strong driver of giving and a vital source of revenue for much of the independent sector. However, there are those who argue that we should do away with such deductions and that the funds that would otherwise flow to foundations and charitable organizations instead go toward expanding the tax base. Yet removing or reducing the deduction would encourage wealthy individuals to spend more on their families, properties, and idiosyncrasies than on worthy causes. Besides, it is clear that government alone could not support the great array of services the independent sector provides, nor could it maintain the field’s richness and diversity. An independent sector as vibrant as ours can only be sustained by an equally vibrant philanthropic sector. Indeed, philanthropy is the backbone of America’s nonprofit field, which is comprised of some 1.5 million organizations that account for 10 percent of all private sector employment nationwide.
Giving is, in short, part of America’s character, culture, and economy. It is an engine for ingenuity in the United States, and it is part of our nation’s social contract.
Religion is not, of course, the only motivating factor for generosity. Enlightenment ideals—humanism and democratic principles—are also common driving forces, as are social obligations to one’s community, one’s nation, and humanity at large.
My colleagues and friends from abroad are awed by American philanthropy. They often ask me what makes Americans so generous. I give them two answers. For one, more than 75 percent of the population identifies as religious, and every Abrahamic faith, whether Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, demands that the faithful be charitable, that they support the poor, the sick, and the disadvantaged. This is reflected in the fact that today more than 30 percent of giving goes to religious organizations and causes. But religion is not, of course, the only motivating factor for generosity. Enlightenment ideals—humanism and democratic principles—are also common driving forces, as are social obligations to one’s community, one’s nation, and humanity at large.
We often fixate on givers’ motivations, but for me what counts most is the act and impact of giving. In our age of cynicism, I am often reminded of Machiavelli, who scandalized many of his contemporaries with his famous political treatise The Prince. In it, the Prince is only interested in the maintenance of law and order and the stability of the realm, not in his subjects’ motivations for obeying the law. He also holds that leaders should be judged above all by their actions, not their beliefs. This remains true today. Whether givers are driven by guilt, redemption, patriotism, religion, self-glory, hypocrisy—all of this is secondary. The fundamental concern is that no one is obligated to give, but so many do. While we cannot always know a philanthropist’s true motivations, we can always measure the outcomes of their giving.
Of course, the giving industry should welcome such questions and scrutiny because, as in every other sector, philanthropy is not immune to excesses and malfeasance. For example, in some instances, donors dive into addressing very complex problems, such as education, the environment, or poverty reduction, with very little expertise in the field and without seeking expert assistance. They also sometimes attach so many conditions to their gifts that they distract or distort an institution and its mission. This is common in the research field, where donors sometimes provide support on the condition that the research produces a predetermined outcome. Finally, some fear that philanthropists and foundations lack accountability to the public, acting, in effect, as unelected officials supervised only by state attorneys general.
In the face of potential abuses, it is fundamental that the philanthropic sector heed three core principles: transparency, accountability, and responsibility.
In the face of potential abuses, it is fundamental that the philanthropic sector heed three core principles: transparency, accountability, and responsibility.
Carnegie Corporation of New York—one of the oldest foundations in the United States and the first to publish an annual report—has always ascribed to these values. Indeed, more than 60 years ago, the Corporation’s board chairman, Russell Leffingwell, coined the term “glass pockets” at a congressional hearing. Later John Gardner expanded on the policy, saying, “A foundation should practice full disclosure. The larger it is, the more energetically it should disseminate full information on its activities.” The Corporation has long understood, as Carnegie did, that the public has granted us the right to exist, and we therefore owe it to the public to be as accountable and open as possible regarding our activities and funding decisions.
Fortunately, we have a healthy free press that can take to task those who misuse their powers, as well as strong democratic institutions to prevent abuses of trust. As president, Thomas Jefferson famously despised newspapers, but he nonetheless allowed that “the only security of all is in a free press.” (If he were alive today, I believe he would say the only security of all is in a free and well-informed press.)
For those who would criticize philanthropy and philanthropists, I caution that it is always easier to fall into disillusionment and cynicism. It is more difficult and, indeed, more courageous—to stand up for and live by one’s ideals. Like the hundreds of thousands of other men and women who donate their time, talents, or personal funds to worthy causes, the more than 50 recipients of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy understand this. They are exemplars of the act and art of giving, demonstrating that generosity is an act of human solidarity. They come from different backgrounds and support different fields, but they all know, as Andrew Carnegie knew, that one’s legacy is not measured by wealth, but by the good one has done for the world. They are, in my opinion, all driven by a common goal: to serve humanity and to make their communities and the world safer and more just for all.
Social Entrepreneurs Are Combining Profit and Purpose
While working in the wedding and event design business, Jennifer Grove often saw expensive flower arrangements get tossed into the garbage after being on display for just a few hours. She started collecting these flowers and handing them out to friends and neighbors. This always brought smiles, but it did not solve the problem that, at the end of the day, most pricey — but still beautiful — bouquets are simply thrown out.
In 2014 Grove founded Repeat Roses, which redistributes flower displays from weddings, galas, and other events to places such as hospices, cancer treatment centers, and homeless shelters. Afterward the reused flowers are collected and composted, helping reduce landfill waste and greenhouse gas emissions.
“For me, as a social entrepreneur, my wish is that this service will actually be a catalyst to inspire people to do other good things,” Grove says. “Maybe they’ll say: I can do something else to make a difference in someone else’s world.”
A growing number of entrepreneurs are combining their businesses with social good initiatives, whether that means protecting the environment, helping more students go to college, or making healthy food more accessible. By incorporating a social mission into their business models, these entrepreneurs are finding ways to give back — and by their example they are encouraging their customers and employees to do the same. Nonprofits, foundations, and investors are realizing the power of social entrepreneurs, and are helping to propel their success.
Grove says that when she works with, for example, a couple planning their wedding, she hopes that reusing their wedding flowers will be the first of many such charitable actions to come out of the marriage. And happily, some of the organizations Repeat Roses has worked with have already been inspired to give back; in one case, a shelter for homeless women told her they are determined to do more to protect the environment and are now conscientious about recycling and composting.
Another entrepreneur, Christine Moseley, started her business after becoming frustrated at seeing healthy juices priced at $13/bottle and at the same time learning that businesses discard a lot of great produce simply because it does not look perfect. Moseley founded Full Harvest, which connects farms to food and beverage companies so that growers can sell their “imperfect” (but perfectly good) produce that might otherwise have gone to waste. This lowers food production costs while reducing food waste and making more efficient use of resources like water in the production cycle.
Moseley said that for many reasons a business model made more sense than a nonprofit model, including the fact that Full Harvest is technology-based and technology is expensive. She also wanted to be able to scale up.
“I really wanted to make a big impact and help change the world,” she said. “When you look at some nonprofits — while the work is fantastic, they’re small, local efforts and they’re not fundamentally changing what we do or changing the supply chain. There are a lot of big problems out there and a lot of them can’t be solved in larger scalable ways with a not-for-profit model. So it’s about getting investors instead of grants because you can sometimes do a lot more and faster with that model.”
Grove and Moseley both worked with Project Entrepreneur, an educational program and venture competition that helps women entrepreneurs grow scalable, impactful companies. Since launching in 2015, the program has helped more than 1,800 participants.
“While Project Entrepreneur applicants are not required to have a social mission, every year a significant number among our class are mission-driven start-ups with a double bottom line,” says Jennifer Stybel, executive director of Rent the Runway Foundation, which runs the program in partnership with UBS. “This community of female founders clearly cares about giving back and bakes that into their business models from the beginning.”
Many other foundations and organizations are working to help entrepreneurs. Robin Hood, which fights poverty in New York, in 2015 acquired Blue Ridge Labs, a social impact incubator that works to help entrepreneurs and others build technology products for underserved communities. The Case Foundation is helping create a landscape with investment opportunities that have a social impact, and also works to ensure there are rigorous social benchmarks that can be measured and evaluated.
“We’ll continue to need philanthropy, donors, and capital to help build an ecosystem in which these companies can have a level playing field,” says Rehana Nathoo, the Case Foundation’s vice president of social innovation.
The Case Foundation works on impact investing, which has seen dramatic growth in recent years. Sustainable, responsible, and impact investing assets in the United States grew by 33 percent from 2014 to 2016, to $8.72 trillion. Since social entrepreneurships are in the business of doing good, they can benefit from these investments.
Christopher Gray, founder and CEO of Scholly, a mobile and web app that helps students find scholarships, says social entrepreneurships are “the new nonprofit” — and it is likely more donors, investors, and foundations will start to see their potential.
“Social entrepreneurships actually sustain themselves, so I feel like a lot of those philanthropic dollars are going to start moving and more foundations are going to start giving grants to fund social ventures over grassroots nonprofits,” says Gray, who started his business after winning $1.3 million in scholarships himself. Gray, who appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank, grew up in poverty in a single-parent household.
Moseley, of Full Harvest, says social entrepreneurs look for many ways to give back, even beyond their business.
“Social entrepreneurs are themselves usually very philanthropic people, and we like to volunteer,” she says, adding that at her business’s two-year anniversary event, they raised money for a local food bank. “We are already doing good with our business model, but because I’m fundamentally a person trying to change the world we live in, I’m always thinking of ways to do this. It’s good on good on good.”
A 2010 Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund study found that entrepreneurs and their companies are more likely to give to charity. Nine out of 10 entrepreneurs said they donate money both personally and through their company, and 70 percent said they also donate their time. More than 60 percent of entrepreneurs said giving back makes their company more successful.
Social entrepreneurs run businesses, but many of them also have a bold vision: to leave the world a better place than how they found it.
Tiffany Rowe’s wish in 1988 was to meet Michael Jackson. That was the first time she heard of Make-A-Wish – when they showed up at her door.
In 1984, at just 11 years old, Tiffany was diagnosed with bone marrow failure. Doctors told her she had three to six months to live and she spent the next several years fighting to survive.
After a relapse in 1988, Make-A-Wish arranged for Tiffany to meet the star backstage before a concert in Chicago. However, much to her surprise, during the concert a security guard passed her a note, “Michael Jackson requests your presence on stage.” And with that, her wish was granted as she danced to “Bad” with Michael Jackson himself. The opportunity allowed Tiffany to take a step back from her incredibly difficult circumstances and be a kid again, a moment that changed her life.
Now, 29 years later, Tiffany is the Chair of the Make-A-Wish National Board Alumni Association, having spent her life as a Make-A-Wish spokesperson, volunteer leader, and advocate dedicated to giving back to the organization that inspired her during her difficult times as a young girl. She helps other children tap back into that feeling of what it means to be a kid, having big dreams and and believing in the future, often during times of great uncertainty.
At just 16 years old, Skylar Lee ended his life. The loss was shocking to his community— Skylar was known as an energetic, vibrant activist for LGBTQ issues. The death devastated Skylar’s mother, Joanne.
In 2014, when Skylar came out as transgender to his mother, she was in shock. Her conservative upbringing guided her toward shutting down and shutting out her child, a decision she would never quite recover from.
After Skylar’s death to suicide in 2015, Joanne began the process of learning about her son, his work as an activist in the LGBTQ community for intersectionality, acceptance, and equality. Her son’s words, and his final wish – that it be understood he was not committing suicide because he was transgender and that he did not want to become a “sob story” – drove Joanne to action.
In the time since losing her son, Joanne has continued her son’s work, teaming up with Human Rights Campaign as part of its National Parents for Transgender Equality Council, telling Skylar’s story, and teaching other parents of LGBTQ teens to accept and love their children as they are. She has passionately taken on Skylar’s mantle, fighting not only for the LGBTQ community but for a broad range of minority groups, living up to her son’s message of social justice for all marginalized communities.
Joanne is seeking justice for the LGBTQ youth and, this time, she’s not leaving anyone behind.
None of his friends or family expected Jahmal Cole to go to college, let alone graduate, but he did; and that was just the beginning.
After college, Jahmal returned to his hometown of Chicago as a Microsoft administrator at a trading firm. In the time he had to spare, Jahmal volunteered with the juvenile population at Cook County Jail. For three years, he listened to the children, learning that outside Cook County’s walls much of their experience took place in just one or two blocks.
Jahmal spent his time bringing these young people down to see where he worked, showed them alternative career paths and it helped broaden their world view. He started with one or two kids he would drive downtown himself in his car and developed into multiple trips with children piled into vans to see a part of the city they had never seen before. This experience was the beginning of My Block, My Hood, My City (M3).
Jahmal and M3 now have over 120 teenagers, from underserved “Level 3” schools (lower performing schools with less than 80% attendance) who they bring on explorations around Chicago to explore and broaden their world view from their block, to their neighborhood, and to their city.
Last year, M3 trekked outside the city and took 25 students to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, a trip that brought these students their first experiences with boarding passes, airplanes, and travel outside their own comfort zone. This year, their first graduating class will set the stage for the future.
Jahmal hopes to show these students that, in a city like Chicago, you can broaden your worldview and bring new options to young people.