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Curtain Call

Change Gears, and Change the World

Want to change the world? If you're looking to really make a difference in the world, consider philanthropy. Through charitable giving, endowments and foundations, your wealth can make the world a better place while, perhaps, preserving your place in history among the great benefactors. Consider, for example, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which was created in 2000 to help cure disease and improve education. Even Bill knows that there's more to life than business.

Whether you choose to give to an existing charity or to start your own foundation, be sure to get the facts. There are several organizations out there to help you, including-get this-the IRS. Before sending a big check to any charity, check out their IRS Form 990 filing, which can tell you things like how much the organization spends on executive salaries. (Click here for a deeper explanation of the form.) A reputable charity should be able to provide that form as well as audited financials.

Get more facts on philanthropy from these worthwhile organizations:

  • The Foundation Incubator allows new philanthropists can learn the ropes in an "intimate and trusting environment," according to Foundation literature. The Foundation Incubator, based in Palo Alto, California, is a support network and a technical resource for anyone who has, or would like to start, a serious philanthropic endeavor.
  • GuideStar is the ultimate source for finding and evaluating nonprofit organizations. Their encyclopedic database of charities can help you sort the saints from the scammers. Start any serious giving campaign here.
  • The Philanthropy Roundtable, a national association of more than 600 individual and organizational donors, says it "attracts independent-minded donors who understand that philanthropy is difficult to do well." The Roundtable provides both peer support and professional advice. The organization's bimonthly magazine, Philanthropy, is also a great resource.
  • Women & Philanthropy supports and encourages women and girls to work together on specific issues within the field of philanthropy.
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This article was originally published in the October 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Curtain Call.

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