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Make Philanthropy a Priority

For hundreds of years, successful businesspeople have found ways to give back.

Benjamin Franklin began a legacy of philanthropy that has become an unspoken expectation of becoming a successful American manager. Franklin's most notable philanthropic contributions were two $5,000 nest eggs, which he bequeathed to the cities of Boston and Philadelphia with instructions that the cities not touch the money for 100 years. By the end of the first 100 years, the funds had grown to almost $400,000 for Boston and about $150,000 for Philadelphia. Each fund eventually endowed important educational institutions in both cities.

In the next century, Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller established a pattern of philanthropy for all American businesspeople who followed them. Carnegie's sentiment was that he who dies rich dies disgraced. Before his death, Carnegie gave away almost all his money to a wide variety of institutions including universities, peace organizations and public libraries. Similarly, Rockefeller's philanthropy included endowments to the University of Chicago and to Spelman College, the nation's first college for African-American women.

All eyes are upon the current crop of successful American managers as their fortunes continue to escalate. Cable television visionary Ted Turner fired the first shot a few years ago with a $1 billion gift to the United Nations. Bill Gates recently established the Gates Foundation, dedicated to global health and learning initiatives, with total assets of $17 billion. Most likely, additional substantial gifts will come later. Regardless, all Americans have benefited from the legacy of philanthropy begun by Franklin and continued to this day.

Excerpted from Ben Franklin's 12 Rules of Management

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