The stories of our virtuous philanthropists share a common thread, a bond that weaves their lives together even though they may not know each other. The bond is echoed by the late Dame Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop. When asked to comment on her decision to sell $150 million of the company’s stock and give the proceeds to charity, she said, “They thought that eccentric of me. But you can’t take it with you and you’re a long time dead.”
Dame Roddick died in 2007, at the age of 64, from a cerebral hemorrhage, after a long battle with hepatitis C from a blood transfusion, which had gone undiagnosed for several years. She fulfilled her promise to leave her estate to charities on the same moral grounds that she gave to her life as an active campaigner for environmental and social issues, including helping disadvantaged children in Europe and Asia through Children on Edge, an organization she founded in 1990. A truly virtuous philanthropist, the late Dame Roddick saw it as her responsibility to fulfill her legacy in the way she conducted business, clearly outlined in the company culture and mission and in her quest to promote ethical consumerism.
Here in the United States, that same ethical consumerism and social capital of community and philanthropy is exemplified in fashion designer Sigrid Olsen’s confidence that she can pull it all together, and by philanthropist Tracy Gary, who, on inheriting $1 million at the age of 21, proceeded to give it all away. Gary wanted to see that money go places and accomplish things, and she has, with her organization, Inspired Legacies.
These and other women like them personify the qualities of many women boomers who are innovative, responsible and compassionate change agents. These are women who don’t bury their gold in the ground. As Marilyn Wechter reminds us, “We need to create a community, and that’s one of the things that philanthropy does. It creates a community of like-minded people who come together for a cause they champion, for something they believe in, because they envision the world a better place.”
And with the work of our boomers, it will be.
For more, read “Women, Wealth & Giving: The Virtous Legacy of the Boom Generation” by Margaret May Damen and Niki Nicastro McCuistion.