Actor, Natural Food Producer, and Philanthropist
Paul Newman was a famous actor – he won an Academy Award for his performance in The Color of Money in 1986, and he was also nominated for an Oscar nine more times! As an actor he made a lot of money, and he used some of that money to do what he loved – race cars. He even formed his own racing team!
But he was interested in more than fast cars – he cared deeply about the environment and about children. He used much of the money he made to start organizations that help these two causes.
His most famous charitable organization is Newman’s Own food company. It started because Paul Newman loved to make salad dressing and give it away to his friends. His salad dressing got so popular, that he decided to sell it! You might be familiar with Newman’s Own for their delicious spaghetti sauces, salsas, lemonade, pretzels, or (our favorite) Fig Newman’s cookies!
But did you know that Mr. Newman gave away ALL of the money he earned from this business (after taxes and other stuff)? That’s right, he gave over $400 million to charities including The MINDS Foundation, The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, Shining Hope for Communities, Edible Schoolyard NYC, Fisher House Foundation, the WILD Young Women Programme (New Zealand), and Pilgrims Hospices (UK). He was one generous guy.
One of the charities that Newman started with money from Newman’s Own is a summer camp for very sick children called the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. He wanted to give every child – no matter what kind of illness they have – the chance to “raise a little hell” and have a real summer camp experience. He named it after a gang in his 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and created a kid-sized Old West setting that looked a lot like the set of the movie. He made sure there were plenty of regular summer camp activities, adapted so that children with physical and medical problems could participate.
The organization has helped almost 300,000 seriously ill kids all over the world have great summer experiences, for free! Over 15,000 annual donors, organizations, corporations, foundations, and organizations donate money to support the camp. These organizations include Newman’s Own, AngelRide Charitable Trust, Travelers Championship, the International Longshoreman's Association Children's Fund, and Newman's college fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau. Although Newman used his own money to buy the land for the camp and start it, 98% of the Camp's annual operating budget of $8.4 million comes from sources other than Newman's Own.
Another organization that Paul Newman started with the profits from Newman’s Own is the Safe Water Network. This non-profit partners with large foundations like PepsiCo, Conrad N. Hilton and Newman’s Own to make sure people all over the world have clean water to drink.
Paul Newman discovered a way to build a company and use it to make a difference in the world.
Founder of Wendy’s and The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
Have you ever eaten a hamburger at Wendy’s? The man who opened that first Wendy’s hamburger restaurant (and the 6,500 other Wendy’s restaurants) is Dave Thomas. Thomas was an extremely successful business man – before Wendy’s merged with another fast food restaurant chain in 2006. It was making almost $2.5 billion in sales – that’s a lot of hamburgers.
Thomas wanted to use some of the money he made from Wendy’s to help others, especially children. Thomas loved kids – he even named his restaurant chain after one of his own kids! But the kids he cared about most were those who do not have their own families.
Thomas was adopted, and he devoted much of his life to helping other kids get adopted. The truth is, lots of people (over 81 million) think about adopting a child, but never do. If only one in 500 of these people actually adopted a child, all of the kids waiting in foster care would have permanent homes. Thomas was so passionate about this issue, the President of the United States asked him to help spread the word about adoption! Thomas even got the U.S. Postal Service to create an adoption stamp.
Thomas didn’t just talk about adoption – he started an organization called the Dave Thomas Foundation to help foster kids like our friend Basil find forever homes. As of January 2015, the Foundation has helped over 4,500 foster kids get adopted. The Foundation works hardest for the children that have been waiting the longest to be adopted, and whom many consider to be unadoptable. In fact, foster children who are referred by the Foundation’s “Wendy’s Wonderful Kids” program are three times as likely to get adopted. 70% of these kids are over the age of 8, 30% have lived in 6 or more foster homes, and 50% have been in foster care for over four years. Some are just waiting to age out of foster care at age 18 or 21, and have given up on the dream of a permanent family.
Thomas focused on one thing that he was extremely passionate about – adoption – and he was able to make a huge difference in thousands of people’s lives through his generosity and devotion to helping foster kids.
Entrepreneur, Chocolate Maker, Philanthropist
You’ve probably eaten a Hershey Bar at some point – it might be the most famous chocolate bar in the world! But did you know that Milton Hershey, the man who invented the Hershey bar, made a real difference in the lives of people who lived and worked in Hershey, Pennsylvania?
Hershey made millions with his chocolate business, but he didn’t get off to a very good start. He dropped out of school, and his first two businesses failed. When he was a teenager, he became an apprentice to a candy maker so that he could learn how to do something useful. Later he went to work for a candy maker and learned how to make caramel with fresh milk. What he learned about chocolate making in 1893 at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, he decided to utilize by adding fresh, local milk to make milk chocolate. At the time, chocolate was very expensive, and nobody else in the United States was making it – he wanted everyone to be able to afford to buy a chocolate bar.
Hershey learned a lot from his business failures – especially how important it is to keep your employees happy. When he opened his chocolate factory in 1903, he built a community around it for the workers so that they would have a nice place to live. In this little town (Hershey, Pennsylvania), he built schools, churches, parks, recreational facilities and a trolley system. Later he added a community building, a department store, a convention hall, an amusement park, and a swimming pool. He even contributed $50 million to build a hospital in Hershey.
He also created a special school for orphan boys (boys without parents) – the Hershey Industrial School. Eventually, he gave almost all of his considerable wealth to that school. Because he planned well, the school, now called the Milton Hershey School, is still going, educating hundreds of boys (and now girls too!) a 100 years later!
Computer Programmer, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
Who is the Richest Man in the world? Right now it’s Bill Gates, who started Microsoft, the world’s largest personal computer company. Here’s an example of how much money this guy has – he made $15 billion dollars in only one year! So he’s good at making money, and he’s good at computer programming, but he is also really good at sharing his money.
Gates learned how to program computers when he was only 13 years old. At 14, his school asked him to write a program to schedule students in classes. He wrote the program so that all of the most interesting girls were in his classes. When he was 17, he started a business with his friend Paul Allen, programming traffic counters. Many years later, he and Allen started Microsoft together.
Gates really admired David Rockefeller and the Rockefeller family, who used their money to help solve global problems that governments and other organizations are not helping with. He sold some of his Microsoft stock in 1994 to start a charitable organization – it soon became the richest foundation in the world. As of 2007, after giving away over $28 billion dollars to charity, Bill and Melinda Gates were not only the richest people in the world, they were the second-most generous people in the United States (Warren Buffet was the first). Their plans are to donate 95% of their wealth to charity.
Where is all of this money going? The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation works in four areas: making healthcare better, reducing extreme poverty all over the world, making education and information technology easier for people to connect with in America. Because it is so large, it gives money to a lot of different programs.
The foundation does things like provide mico loans (very small amount of money) to women who want to start their own businesses in Latin America, helps figure out how to grow more rice to feed hungry people, makes sure people in Africa and Asia have clean water to drink, and helps victims of earthquakes.
Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, have made a huge difference in thousands of people’s lives all over the world with the money they have donate.
Talk Show Host, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist
Oprah Winfrey is now a household name, famous for her talk show and for her achievements as an African American woman. She is the richest African-American of the 20th century, AND the greatest black philanthropist in American history. Many people believe her to be the most influential woman in the world.
But she didn’t start out rich and famous – in fact, her situation was quite the opposite. She was born to a single teenage mother who worked as a maid in rural Mississippi. Her father was a coal miner, a barber, and served in the Army. Winfrey was so poor, that she had to wear dresses made out of potato sacks. Other kids made fun of her. She was smart though – her grandmother taught her how to read before she was three years old. And, at that age, she was already practicing to be a talk show host: she would “interview” her corn cob dolls, and even crows!
Things started looking up when she got to high school, where she joined the debate team. She won a speech contest in which she won a full scholarship to college. After she won the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant, a local radio station offered her a job to do the news part-time. After a few years, she moved into television, becoming Nashville’s youngest TV news anchor, and the TV station’s first black, female news anchor. She worked through various TV jobs until she got to Chicago, where she became a daytime talk show host.
Her show went from the least popular to the most popular talk show in Chicago. The show was re-named the Oprah Winfrey Show, and was broadcast to a national audience, which made her a millionaire at the age of 32. She then started her own production company, and eventually her own TV station. She also starred in and produced movies, co-wrote five books, currently publishes several magazines, and has her own radio station.
In 1998, Winfrey started a charity called “Oprah’s Angel Network” that raised almost $80 million dollars for nonprofits and charitable causes around the world with the goal of "inspiring people and making a difference in the lives of others” by fighting poverty, child neglect, disease, and homelessness. After Hurricane Katrina, Winfrey raised more than $11 million dollars, and personally donated another $10 million to help rebuild homes.
She also gave Christmas presents of dolls, soccer balls, and school supplies to 50,000 poor children in South Africa. She asked her viewers to help these South African children, many of whom were affected by AIDS, and $7 million dollars poured in from her fans. Shortly after that, she spent $40 million starting a school for girls in South Africa. She even teaches a class at the school, on a private TV channel.
In 2004, Winfrey became the first black person to rank among the 50 most generous Americans – by 2012 she had given away over $400 million to educational causes. She has given away over 400 college scholarships, and in 2013 Winfrey gave $12 million to the Smithsonian Museum’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Entrepreneur, Founder, Social Venture Partners
Paul Brainerd was working as a newspaper reporter, when desktop computers were invented. He wanted to be able to use computers to publish newspapers. So, he started a company (Aldus Corporation) that made “desktop publishing” software (PageMaker). This company was very successful, and when he sold it, Brainerd wanted to use the money to do something to help preserve nature in the Pacific Northwest, where he lives.
He wasn’t sure where to start, so he talked to a lot of different people and non-profit organizations to figure out how to best use his money to help his local environment. He got a lot of good advice, and he and his sister decided to start The Brainerd Foundation to protect the local natural environment and to get other people involved in this mission.
The research he did before he started the Brainerd Foundation was a valuable experience. Brainerd realized that he was not the only person who had just made a lot of money in the software industry – there were suddenly lots of technology millionaires who wanted to do good in the world with the money they had earned, but weren’t sure how to do it.
Brainerd started talking to these people, and realized that these really smart people had more to give than just money – they knew how to run a successful organization, and they knew lots of other smart people who wanted to help! Brainerd saw an opportunity to help connect these business leaders with non-profits who could really use their assistance.
With some other Seattle business leaders, he started an organization called Social Venture Partners, that got business leaders involved in helping non-profits, not just with their money, but with their advice, and with their connections in the community. Now there are 39 Social Venture Partner chapters all over the world, with 3500 partners who have contributed $50 million dollars in grants to help more than 300 non-profit organizations be successful.
You can read more about Social Venture Partners and Paul Brainerd at: http://www.socialventurepartners.org/seattle/2011/07/18/how-it-all-started/
Young Billionaire Mark Zuckerberg
Web Developer, Entrepreneur, and Philanthropist
Facebook is the most popular social networking service in the world, and Mark Zuckerberg started it in 2004, when he was still in college! By the time he was 23 years old, in 2007, Facebook had made Zuckerberg a billionaire.
Zuckerberg first became interested in computers when he was in middle school, when his father taught him how to program. He studied computer science and psychology at Harvard, which is where he developed the first version of Facebook with some of his friends. A movie called “The Social Network” portrays how he turned a side project into a multi-billion dollar company, and the controversy around its launch.
In 2010, Zuckerberg made his first major gift of a $100 million dollars to help the struggling Newark public school system. Shortly thereafter, Zuckerberg signed The Giving Pledge, which asks billionaires to give over half of their money to charity over the course of their lives.
In 2013, Zuckerberg made the largest donation ever -- $900 million to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which partners with donors and nonprofits to address social issues in the community. The following year, Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, donated $25 million to combat the Ebola virus in Africa. They made headlines again when they announced, upon the birth of their daughter Max, that they would give 99% of their $45 billion in Facebook shares to charity. Zuckerberg was 31 years old at the time.
What would you do with $45 billion dollars?
Business Man, Investor, Philanthropist
In any discussion of the world’s wealthiest people, Warren Buffett’s name comes up. As chairman, president, and CEO of the enormous conglomerate company Berkshire Hathaway, he is the most successful investor in the world. Despite his wealth, he is known for being a frugal guy and not spending much of his personal money. For instance, he still lives in the same small house that he purchased in 1957.
Buffett was always interested in business. As a kid, he sold gum, Coca Cola, and newspapers by going door to door, and he worked in his grandfather’s grocery store in Omaha, where he grew up. In high school he started delivering papers, detailing cars, and selling golf balls and stamps.
When he was only 14, he bought his first piece of land – a 40-acre farm. By the time he was 15, he was making $175/month delivering papers, which was a lot of money in 1945. And by the time he finished college, he had saved the equivalent of over $90,000 in today’s dollars.
After he graduated from college with a degree in business administration and graduate school with a master’s degree in economics, he started working as an investment salesman, and then a securities analyst – jobs that taught him even more about investing money. Buffett was not always successful – he was rejected by Harvard, his gas station business failed, and the person he really wanted to work for (an investor named Ben Graham) would not immediately hire him.
Graham eventually hired him, and he worked for Graham’s investment company for a few years before it closed and Buffett started his own partnership. This partnership grew and grew, and eventually, at the age of 32, Buffett became a millionaire. It took another 30 years before that same company made him a billionaire, and by 2008 he was worth $62 billion dollars.
He started his own charitable organization called the Buffett Foundation (now the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, managed by his daughter Susie), and expected to manage his donations through this foundation. However, in 2006, he made the largest donation in history when he gave shares in his company worth about $30.7 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation because he thought they were better prepared to use the money. In 2010, he signed The Giving Pledge with Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, and pledged to give away at least half of his fortune to charity.
Entrepreneur, Industrialist and Philanthropist
No discussion of American philanthropists would be complete without mentioning the Rockefellers – the original American philanthropists. John D. Rockefeller, who founded Standard Oil Company, started it all. Born in New York in 1839 to a homemaker and a traveling salesman/con artist, he became the richest person in American history. As a percentage of the total amount of money in the United States, modern wealthy people like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet don’t even come close to how much money Rockefeller had.
As a boy, Rockefeller was good at math, and he got a job as a bookkeeper when he was only 16. In 1863, when he was 24, he got together with some partners and built an oil refinery. A smart and courageous business man, Rockefeller continually borrowed money, and used the money he made to grow the business even larger. He also carefully controlled how much money the business spent, and he even found a use for the waste the refinery produced. Rockefeller continued to build or buy refineries until he owned almost all of the refineries in the United States! This made him an extremely rich man.
He was also a deeply religious and generous man – he wanted to help other people with the money he made. Rockefeller invented the idea of creating foundations to distribute his wealth. The foundations that he created focused on medicine, education and scientific research.
He founded three universities in the U.S. and the Philippines. Most importantly, Rockefeller’s foundations helped eradicate diseases like hookworm and yellow fever, which, thanks to John D. Rockefeller, are no longer a threat to U.S. citizens today. Modern philanthropists still use this model of foundations that Rockefeller invented to distribute their wealth.
Founder of Spanx, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
If Sara Blakely’s life had a theme, it would be: Never Give Up on Your Dreams. As the founder of Spanx, a revolutionary pantyhouse company, she is on several Top 100 lists for influential and powerful people. Blakely didn’t always dream of making pantyhouse. She was going to be a lawyer! But she failed the bar (the final test to becoming an attorney) and her career took a different path. While working at an office supply company, Blakely decided to turn her frustration with ill-fitting pantyhouse into a business.
Her challenge was this: create a pair of fitted, control top pantyhouse WITHOUT an unsightly seam in the toe, and women could comfortably wear under pants. She spent two years (and $5,000 in savings) researching this idea for a new kind of pantyhouse, and then wrote her own patent, after she could not find a female patent attorney to help her. She presented her idea to every single hosiery manufacturer in North Carolina, and was rejected by every single one. When one hosiery mill operator talked to his daughters about Blakely’s ideas, they convinced him to manufacture her product.
Blakely did almost everything for her business by herself. She invented the name of the company, created the package design, and even decided where her product would be sold in stores (with the shoes, not with the other hosiery). She shopped her product around at high-end department stores, personally convincing buyers to carry it. Then she asked everyone she knew to go into the department stores and request her pantyhouse. (Smart idea).
After Oprah Winfrey declared Spanx one of her “Favorite Products,” Blakely’s business made enough money for her to quit her day job, and soon made Blakely a billionaire.
Oprah was her first lucky break, and meeting Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, while starring on a reality TV show, was her second.
When she decided to start The Sara Blakely Foundation, an organization to teach women all over the world how to start their own business, Branson gave her $750,000 to get it up and running. Blakely is the youngest female billionaire and she was the first woman to sign The Giving Pledge. Her Foundation, along with its sister foundation for female business owners in the U.S., Leg Up, has already donated over $24 million to support education for female business owners.
Actress, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist
If you judged Reese Witherspoon from the sunny, likeable women she has played on film, you’d actually be right. She is a genuinely nice person with strong family values.
She started acting as a child, and has pretty much acted continuously since then, taking a short break to attend a year at Stanford University, studying English literature. She earned fame and some minor awards with her roles in Election and Legally Blonde, and then took a break from acting for a few years to get married and have two children.
She returned to the screen in 2002 to become one of the highest-paid actresses in the business, earning $15-20 million for each of her starring roles in films. In 2005 she portrayed June Carter in Walk the Line, singing all of her own vocals in front of a live audience, and won an Academy award for that performance.
In recent years Witherspoon has taken on other projects – she started her own film production company, and then created a fashion line of accessories and home décor inspired by the American South.
Witherspoon has been generous with her wealth, choosing to focus on helping women and children through organizations such as Save the Children, which provides education for children all over the world, the Children’s Defense Fund , a group that speaks for and helps children, especially poor children and children with disabilities. She was recently honored for her support of the Malala Fund, which promotes education for young girls. The Malala Fund was started by Malala Yousafzai, who, at seventeen years old, was the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Witherspoon is currently focusing her efforts on supporting women in such issues as preventing domestic violence as the Avon Global Ambassador & Honorary Chairman of the Avon Foundation for Women.
Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
Chuck Feeney’s story is a true American success story of working hard, making lots of money, and giving most of it away.
According to Forbes magazine: “Few living people have given away more and no one at his wealth level has ever given their fortune away so completely during their lifetime.”
Feeney was born during the Great Depression, and joined the United States Air Force in the 1950s, where he earned money by selling duty-free liquor to military personnel. Duty-free means you don’t have to pay taxes on what you are buying, as long as you are taking it out of the country where you bought it. Feeney turned duty-free shopping into a huge business, founding the Duty Free Shopping Group to sell expensive tax-free goods to travelers.
Feeney never wanted to be rich. He said: “"I set out to work hard, not to get rich.” And when he found himself with millions of dollars, he decided to give most of it away – secretly. Even the charities who were receiving enormous amount of money did not know who it was coming from.
He set aside a good chunk of money for himself, his first wife, and his children, and then, in 1984 he put the rest of his money into a foundation called The Atlantic Philanthropies, which supports health and public policy causes such as dementia research and immigration reform in several countries around the world. He started a university in Ireland, where his family is from, and recently, he gave $27 million to help get the Affordable Care Act passed, which now provides affordable health care for all U.S. citizens. Atlantic Philanthropies plans to give away a total of $7.5 billion before it closes in 2016.
For 13 years, Feeney’s donations were kept secret. Then, in 1997, he was caught up in a lawsuit that threatened to reveal his generosity, and so he let the New York Times interview him and he told them all about his donations. Like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, Feeney has also signed The Giving Pledge, promising to give the bulk of his wealth to charity.
Actress, Philanthropist, Activist
Angelina Jolie is famous for many reasons – she is a talented film actress and director, and is considered one of the most beautiful women in the world. She is also one of the best-paid actresses, making over $20 million dollars per film, and she is a committed humanitarian and philanthropist.
When she was filming in Cambodia in 2001 for one of her most famous roles (Lara Croft, Tomb Raider), she saw firsthand how people who live in countries torn apart by war suffer.
Disturbed, she did some research, contacting the United Nations to find out which countries were struggling the most as a result of war.
She then went on a world tour of war-torn countries, which inspired her to give $1 million to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the largest donation they had ever received. She became a Goodwill Ambassador for the UNHCR and for the next ten years, she visited and used her fame to raise awareness about war zones and refugees in over 30 different countries. She even got her pilot’s license so that she could help fly food, supplies, and aid workers in to war-torn regions.
Jolie didn’t just visit these countries she adopted a son from Cambodia, and purchased a house there so that she could live in Cambodia part-time to help her adopted son feel connected to his birth country. She purchased 150,000 acres of land near her house in Cambodia and turned it into a wildlife preserve, named after her son. She also adopted two daughters from Africa, and funded similar wildlife conservation projects there. And, she adopted a son from Vietnam. She has also given money to organizations in the United States that help immigrant children from war-torn countries move here.
Jolie has figured out some clever ways to raise money for her favorite charities: She started her own line of jewelry to raise money to provide education for kids in war-torn countries. She has built more than ten schools in Cambodia alone. She also sold the first pictures of her daughter, Shiloh, to the media and gave the almost $8 million dollars she received to UNICEF. Photos of her twins, born in 2008, were sold for $14 million dollars, which was donated to a charitable foundation that she set up with her husband, Brad Pitt.
Singer, Actress, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist
Can you name this female artist? Top Certified Artist in America during the 2000s decade, Top Radio Songs Artist of the Decade in 2009, the Top Female Artist of the 2000s and Artist of the Millennium in 2011, one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2013 and 2014, and finally, Forbes magazine’s most powerful female musician of 2015. And, she’s married to Jay-Z.
Of course we are talking about Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, known as simply “Beyoncé.” Maybe you saw her at one of the TWO Super Bowl half time shows where she performed, or in the movie “Dreamgirls,” where she received a Golden Globe nomination for her role. She is one undeniably talented person, and it seems she has always been a great performer.
When Beyoncé was five years old, she saw Michael Jackson in concert, and she was hooked. She wanted to do what he did. She started singing and dancing and entering competitions, and started her long list of awards with a prize at the school talent show when she was only seven years old.
When it was clear how good she was, her father quit his job to become her manager, and by the time she was fourteen, she signed her first record deal with the group “Girls' Tyme,” which soon became “Destiny’s Child.” The group made four records, the most successful of which (The Writing’s On the Wall) sold more than 8 million copies worldwide. Beyoncé’s solo career eclipsed this number – she has sold over 15 million albums in the US, and over 118 million records worldwide, in addition to 60 million records with Destiny’s Child. Oh, and she achieved all this by the time she was 34 years old.
One of the most successful women in the world, she is also one of the richest. And she has been generous with her money. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Beyoncé contributed $250,000 to set up “The Survivor Foundation” to provide transitional housing for hurricane victims in her home town of Houston, Texas. She also opened a Cosmetology School that provides a 7-month training program for residents of a nonprofit drug and alcohol rehabilitation organization in New York City.
She has often used her fame and art instead of money to help causes she believes in. She was the official face of a campaign to help earthquake victims in Haiti that raised $1 million through t-shirt sales. She has recorded several songs for charity, including a re-write of her single "Get Me Bodied” to support Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign, and a cover of “God Bless the USA” to raise money for the New York Police and Fire Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund. She has also performed at several benefit concerts, including Gucci’s "Chime for Change" campaign, which aims to spread female empowerment. What will she do next? The world is watching.
Singer, Actress, Philanthropist
She is so famous she doesn’t need a last name. Madonna has sold more than 300 million records – more than any other female artist. Known for her elaborate performances with controversial, imagery and costumes, she is also is the top touring female artist of all time.
She moved from her home town in Michigan to New York City in 1978 with $35 dollars in her pocket to work as a singer and a dancer. She studied and worked hard, and eventually released a few singles (“Everybody” and “Burning Up”) that became big hits in the clubs and led to her first record deal – the self-titled “Madonna”.
From there, every record was a hit, and she eventually started her own production company. Madonna is known for doing things her way—from the beginning, she maintained control over the sound of her music, re-mixing songs when she didn’t like the way they turned out, and unapologetically recording controversial lyrics. She also dressed like nobody else, inventing her own styles. Her style was a huge influence on the way women and young girls dressed in the 1980s. She also starred in several film roles in including Susan in “Desperately Seeking Susan” and Evita in “Evita”.
Madonna lost her mother to breast cancer when she was very young, and orphans have a special place in her heart: “On my first visit to Malawi, I was devastated to meet child after child who had been orphaned by AIDS. Having lost my mother at such a young age, I felt a close connection to these children.”
In 2006 Madonna and Michael Berg founded a non-profit organization called Raising Malawi to help the poor, and especially the orphans in the impoverished African country of Malawi. The organization provides children and caregivers with food, clothing, shelter, education, medical and emotional care. Madonna matches every dollar donated to this organization, and she has adopted two children from the country.
The organization has built ten elementary schools that teach traditional art, music, and dance in addition to academic subjects to girls in rural areas of Malawi. She also sold a painting from her private collection for $7.2 million to fund education projects for girls in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa.
Richard Paul Evans
Richard Paul Evans is another best-selling author who pushed through rejection to make it big. He wrote a Christmas story for his two daughters while he was working as an advertising executive, but wasn’t able to get a publisher or agent to publish it.
Undaunted, he self-published the book. After it became a best-seller in his local community of Salt Lake City, Utah, he published it nationally, where it went to #2 on the New York Times bestseller list. Big publishing houses competed for the right to publish it, and when Simon & Shuster won the right to publish it, they gave Evans a $4.2 million advance, making Evans a millionaire overnight.
Evans continued to write, and has written another 30 books since that first book was published, with several of them being made into television movies. Just a year after he earned that $4 million, Evans used some of his new wealth to start a charitable organization called The Christmas Box House International. This organization partners with local, national and international communities and groups to prevent child abuse and to improve the quality of life for children, teens and young adults who have been abused, neglected or are homeless.
The Christmas Box House International serves between 6,000 and 8,000 children and teens each year through programs that provide gifts for children who would not otherwise receive Christmas gifts, and emergency shelters for children are stocked with NEW donated supplies.
These emergency shelters, known as “The Christmas Box Houses,” exist in three cities in Utah, partnering with government organizations in each city to best serve the different populations. They not only provide shelter and food, they also offer therapy, medical and dental evaluations, and fun activities for the children they serve. The Christmas Box House International also has a very special program that pairs mentors with teens who are aging out of foster care and facing homelessness. Evans is on the board of directors for this organization, and continues to devote much of his life to improving the lives of children.
Donald and Doris Fisher
Entrepreneurs and Philanthropists
One thing a lot of self-made billionaires have in common is that they found a need for something and filled it. Donald Fisher, who started The Gap with his wife Doris, is one of these people.
After Fisher left the Navy, he worked for his father in his home town of San Francisco, CA as a cabinet maker. Tired of the family business, he went out on his own business renovating hotels, and happened to rent some space to Levi Strauss, the famous jeans maker. After trying unsuccessfully to return a pair of Levis because they were the wrong size, Fisher noticed that none of the stores that sold Levis carried the full line of jeans in every size.
He talked to Levi Strauss and told them that they should have their own, dedicated store that sold all of the styles and sizes of their jeans, and he offered to run it. They accepted, and he opened a store that he and his wife ran called “The Gap.” This was in reference to the “generation gap,” which means that kids and their parents or grandparents sometimes see things differently.
The store sold records in addition to jeans, in an effort to attract younger people. A few years later they started making their own clothing, and that line was so successful, they were eventually able to purchase other clothing companies like Banana Republic and Old Navy.
The Fishers were passionate about religion and education, and they donated large sums of money to several Jewish organizations, and education-based organizations including KIPP charter schools, Teach for America, GreatSchools.net, EdVoice, and Princeton University. They also loved art, and had a huge art collection that they allowed the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to display. They even paid for public art sculptures in their beloved city of San Francisco.
Donald Fisher died in 2009, but his wife, Doris, is now one of the wealthiest women in the world, with a net worth of $3.1 billion. She was also recently named one of the 100 most powerful women in the world by Forbes magazine. The Fishers’ sons are still managing their family business (The Gap).
Fashion Designer, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist
Tory Burch always loved fashion – and she managed to turn this love into a very successful career. Her first job as a teenager was working at a clothing store at the mall, and once she graduated from college, she went to work for Zoran, a fashion designer, in New York City.
She learned about fashion from a marketing perspective as well, working for Harper’s Bazaar magazine and in public relations for Vera Wang and Polo Ralph Lauren. By 2004, she was ready to start her own line, TRB by Tory Burch, and she launched it in her own store in New York City’s fashionable NoLita district.
She sold almost everything on the first day she opened. When Oprah Winfrey featured her line, then just called “Tory Burch” the following year, her fortune was made. She now has 160 stores all over the world, plus a fashion line that is sold at 3,000 department stores. She is considered one of the top 100 Most Powerful Women by Forbes magazine, and was worth $1.0 billion as of 2013.
Burch has used her wealth to make a difference for women, especially women who want to start their own businesses. In 2009, Burch founded the Tory Burch Foundation, which supports the economic empowerment of women in the U.S. through small business loans, mentoring, and training in how to start and run a business.
The foundation contributed $10 million to provide women entrepreneurs with access to low cost loans, mentoring support and networking opportunities. The foundation hosts a competition for women entrepreneurs to compete for business-education grants, year-long mentoring, and a $50,000 grant plus a $50,000 no-interest investment in their business. She also serves on the board of several organizations, including two that are working to fight cancer (the Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation ).
Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
The Las Vegas Strip would not be what it is today without Elaine Wynn. She and her former husband Steve Wynn co-founded and led the Mirage Resorts there in 1976, and Wynn was inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame in 1999 for her work.
She and her husband then opened Wynn Resorts, which operates a group of luxury resorts and casinos (including the top-rated resort in the world) in Las Vegas. Wynn served as the director of these resorts, expanding them beyond Las Vegas to Macau, and they made her a billionaire.
Wynn hasn’t just opened gaming resorts in Las Vegas, she has also has given a lot back to her community, founding both a Hospice program and The Elaine Wynn Studio for Arts Education there.
As an adviser on several Education-related committees in her home state of Nevada, Wynn has led the way to improving the lives of children through education. The project she has contributed most to over the last 20 years as a board member is Communities in Schools (CIS), an organization that helps at-risk children stay in school instead of dropping out.
CIS helps 1.5 million children each year in more than 2,400 schools, supporting them with everything they need to stay in school. In 2008, Wynn helped establish and fund a $25 million endowment for the organization, and in 2013 she gave them $5 million. Wynn is also a strong supporter of the arts, acting as a board member for both the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
What does it take to be the 2nd richest woman in America? If you ask Diane Hendricks, she would probably say something like “hard work and perseverance.” She grew up on a dairy farm, and started out selling custom-built homes.
After she met her husband, Ken, they worked together, running his roofing business and flipping houses for 15 years. They started ABC Roofing in 1982 because her husband did not like the way roofing materials distributors treated roofers with disrespect. ABC is now one of the largest wholesale distributors of roofing and exterior building supplies, with over 400 locations across the nation. They acquired several of those disrespectful competitors along the way.
Ken Hendricks died in 2007, and Diane Hendricks grew the company from under $3 billion in 2007 to a projected $5.75 billion in 2015. She did all this while raising seven children. As of press time, she is now worth $4.9 billion.
Hendricks is grateful to her community for supporting her business when they were first getting started. And she has thanked them in a big way, funding Wisconsin Eye Public Affairs Network, a television network that is devoted to public affairs in Wisconsin, and acting as chairperson for Rock County 5.0, which is working to retain and create jobs in her native Rock County, Wisconsin.
She also serves on several boards, including the local hospital and the Boys and Girls Club, and is a trustee at Beloit College. She has strong, conservative political opinions, and her largest single contribution was a $5 million donation to Republican candidate Scott Walker’s presidential campaign.
Businessman and Philanthropist
George Soros is worth $24.9 billion dollars, but he started with nothing but a desire to succeed in business. He was born in Hungary in 1930, and because he was Jewish, he was forced to leave the country during the 2nd World War. He moved to England and attended the London School of Economics, where he learned about business.
Soros really wanted to work in money management, but he couldn’t find a job doing that, so he worked as a waiter and a railway porter instead. Determined to get a job at a financial institution, he wrote to every managing director at every merchant bank in London, asking for a job. Most didn’t even reply, some made fun of him when they interviewed him, but one guy (a fellow Hungarian) hired him, and his financial career started.
He went on to be a trader in New York City, and eventually ran his own investment firm, which was very successful. He has written several books about world financial affairs.
As soon as Soros made good money, he started giving it away. He started in the 1970s, giving money to black students in South Africa so that they could attend college. He later gave billions to help end poverty and expand education in Africa.
He also gave billions of dollars to help former Eastern Block countries establish fair and democratic governments and educational facilities, including $100 million to make the internet more accessible in Russian universities. In the United States, Soros has used his money mostly to support political causes that he believes in. Soros has given away over $7 billion over the course of his life!
Jin Sook and Do Won "Don" Chang
Founders of Forever 21, Entrepreneurs and Philanthropists
Here’s a story about a young couple from Korea who turned the American Dream of going from rags to riches into a reality. Do Won "Don" Chang and his wife Jin Sook moved from South Korea to Los Angeles, California when they were both 26 years old.
In the United States, Chang worked very hard at three jobs: he was a janitor, a gas station attendant and he worked in a coffee shop. He noticed that the people who drove the nicest cars all worked in fashion, and so he and his wife scraped together enough money to open a small clothing store, called “Fashion 21,” that sold inexpensive, trendy clothing. It was very popular among their fellow Korean immigrants, and sales quickly increased from $35,000 to $700,000 in the first year.
In order to attract more American customers, they renamed the store “Forever 21” and were able to open 11 stores within five years. Now Chang and Jin Sook own over 600 Forever 21 stores around the world. Their daughters work for the company as well.
The couple are devout Christians and they run a charity called Fashion Delivers Charitable Foundation which gives money to churches and missionary work in third world countries. The foundation also supports several nonprofits: American Forest, which plants trees, Shoes That Fit, which supports underprivileged children in Los Angeles, and the Missing Persons’ Foundation, which raises awareness about child abductions.
The couple also donated over $5million in clothing to the people in Haiti who lost everything after the earthquake. Chang is proud of his story: “Forever 21 gives hope and inspiration to people who come here with almost nothing, and that is a reward that humbles me: the fact that immigrants coming to America, much like I did, can come into a Forever 21 and know that all of this was started by a simple Korean immigrant with a dream.”
Software Developer, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist
Weili Dai is a true leader – she knows how to use her strengths. Born in China, Dai played semi-professional basketball in Shanghai before immigrating to the United States when she was 17 years old to attend college at UC Berkeley, where she studied computer science.
Dai worked as a software developer until she started a semiconductor business called Marvell Technology Group with her husband. Semiconductors are used to make electronics and computers. Dai is the only woman who has ever co-founded a global semiconductor company, and she is now the president of the company (one of the top five of its kind in the world).
Dai is now worth $720 million, and is considered one of the top 100 self-made and powerful women in the world.
As she has used her business and networking skills to grow her company, she has also worked to figure out ways to use technology to improve quality of life, and to increase access to technology in the United States as well as less wealthy countries around the world. She has also helped the U.S. work with her birth country of China in the areas of education and green technology.
Her company, Marvell, works with One Laptop per Child (OLPC) to develop tablet computers for schools all over the world. Marvell also has made donations to help the hungry and victims of disasters in Asia (Dai is on the board of Give2Asia, which connects donors with worthy nonprofit organizations in Asia) and Dai has personally given enough money to her alma mater, UC Berkeley, to have a building named after her and her husband.
Dai clearly has a passion for technology, and she believes that women and girls have the unique ability to design technology that will improve our quality of life:
"Women are the future of technology and today's technology is fun and cool. It's not just about developing ‘nerdy’ stuff it's about turning technology into fashionable and user-friendly smart solutions. A woman's natural talent is design, and the look and feel, and making these things fit into our lifestyles. I believe by embracing STEM and leveraging inherent strength of women—the sense of responsibility, passion, compassion, and pride we dedicate to family and community—and applying it to business can make women the X factor in the new era of global growth and prosperity for the ‘Smart Life and Smart Lifestyle.'"
John and Laura Arnold
Business, Social Entrepreneurs, Philanthropists
Imagine having enough money to do whatever you wanted AND help others. What would you do? John and Laura Arnold found themselves in this position after John made millions working for Enron (the energy firm gave him an $8 million bonus when he was 37) and then briefly ran his own hedge fund (he retired when he was 38).
John and Laura decided it would be much more interesting to quit their jobs, start their own foundation, and figure out how to solve social problems in the United States. They created a foundation that is focused on improving the criminal-justice, education, and pension systems, and they have donated about $670-million to date.
Since they are young, they are able to use their money to fund long-term studies that help them decide how to spend the bulk of their fortune. They are in the process of creating a database of studies on education issues so all the information about what is working or not working in education reform is in one place. They have also put money towards studies of how to make pension programs more reliable and pilot programs aimed at keeping young men from returning to prison. Once they see what is working, they will fund similar programs.
The Arnolds have always been generous with their money – even before John was wealthy, he was asking his friends and co-workers to contribute money for the United Way.
When he first made a lot of money, John looked around for a program that was already doing a good job to improve the public school system. He found the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) met with the founder a few times, and gave him $30,000.
Two years later, John and his wife pledged $10 million to help the KIPP program. They gave another $10 million to help Washington city schools offer higher pay to the best teachers. The Arnolds have also pledged millions to other organizations that are changing the educational system in positive ways -- $25 million to Teach for America, and $20 million to StudentsFirst.
Since they started donating at such a young age, the Arnolds will be able to see their money making a real difference in the world through the research and programs they are helping.
Math Prodigy and Philanthropist
Known as the world’s “smartest billionaire,” Jim Simons is a guy with super hero-level math skills who used his powers for good! Simons is good at math – really good. He got one of the most advanced math degrees you can earn – a PhD in the Philosophy of Mathematics – from UC Berkeley when he was only 23 years old.
He taught at both MIT and Harvard – the most prestigious universities in the world for math, and headed the math department at the State University of New York in Stonybrook. He also worked at the Department of Defense, cracking codes!
He and someone he worked with even invented a mathematical theory that theoretical physicists are still using today. Simons left teaching in 1978 and decided to use his mathematical abilities to make money in the stock market. He started an investing firm called Renaissance Technologies that made $29 billion by the time he retired in 2010.
He is now one of the top-100 richest people in the world, and one of the 50 most influential.
Simons has been very generous with his fortune, spending much of it on research in math and science education, the diagnosis and treatment of autism, and math and science projects such as ocean conservation. Simons recently pledged $80 million to the New York Genome Center, and will match whatever anyone else contributes up to a total of $100 million over the next three years.
Simons built his success on math, and math and science education is especially important to him. His foundation has started a nonprofit that aims to be a model for math and science education by helping teachers and school leaders learn what works best in STEM education.
Musician, Singer and Philanthropist
James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul,” is one of America’s most famous musicians. He was a huge influence on the development of the musical style known as “funk” and was known for his flamboyant performances and energetic dance moves.
Four of his albums appear on Rolling Stone Magazine′s 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Not bad for someone who dropped out of school in the 6th grade and even spent time in jail when he was convicted for stealing at the age of 16. Brown grew up dirt poor in South Carolina and Georgia. His mom left home when he was just a kid.
But he always loved to sing. He even formed a gospel quartet with his cell mates during his time in jail! He joined an R&B band soon after his release from jail, and four years later he was headlining the band and they had a hit in the Top 40 of the Billboard 100. Brown continued to work with the band and develop his own sound, which became known as “funk.” He wrote and performed an abundance of hit songs, and toured with an enormous band, dancing his way through his hits in fancy outfits and elaborate hair dos.
Brown made plenty of money through his music, and he also used his fame to bring attention to racism and the plight of black Americans in the 1960s. His song "Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud" became a theme song for the civil rights movement. His favorite cause was children – especially keeping kids in school, since he never had the chance to finish school himself. He even wrote a song about it – “Don’t Be a Dropout” – and donated royalties from the song to dropout prevention programs. He also gave out toys and turkeys to orphanages several times over the years, and when he died he left most of his money to his trust (the “I Feel Good, Inc. Trust”) to help disadvantaged children and provide scholarships for his many grandchildren to go to school.
Tech Businesswoman, Advocate & Philanthropist
One of the most powerful women in the tech industry, Sheryl Sandberg has been extremely successful in almost everything she attempts. Sandberg currently serves as the COO of Facebook – that means she manages the day-to-day operations of the company.
She was also the first female member of Facebook’s board. Before she worked at Facebook, she was in charge of a large department at Google, and before that she was the Chief of Staff for the United States Secretary of the Treasury. And all this before she turned 45 years old!
Sandberg graduated at the top of her class in high school, college (at Harvard), and business school (also Harvard). She has also always been interested in helping women to be successful in business. In college she started an organization called Women in Economics and Government and she recently became a best-selling author after publishing her book, “Lean In,” which is about the lack of women in leadership positions in business and government, and how to help women succeed in business.
Sandberg has also donated millions of dollars to empower women. Most recently, she moved $31 million in Facebook shares to the Sheryl Sandberg Philanthropy Fund, which funds nonprofits that support women in the workplace. Sheryl signed the Giving Pledge in 2014, which means she will donate the bulk of her wealth to charity. Other causes that she plans to donate to include the Stand Up for Kids Campaign and Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara & San Mateo Counties, both of which make sure kids have enough to eat.
Pleasant Rowland ~ Educator, Creator, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
Pleasant Rowland followed her heart, and became a millionaire because of it! If you are a girl growing up in the United States, chances are you’ve heard of American Girl dolls, whose sales are second only to Barbie dolls. Pleasant Rowland, who started American Girl, became a millionaire when she sold her company to Mattel for $700 million dollars.
But she started out as a schoolteacher. That was her first career. After that she was a TV news reporter, and then she returned to education as a textbook writer and publisher. After visiting historic Williamsburg, Virginia, Rowland thought of a new way to get girls interested in history. Her idea was to create dolls that are based on historic periods in time. She created American Girl dolls for different time periods, and developed books, clothing, and other accessories to match the doll and the time in history.
After selling her doll empire, Rowland continued to focus on historical projects, this time by contributing money to preserve history. She gave millions to restore a historic inn and other buildings in the town of Aurora, where she went to college.
She even purchased a local business, pottery and home wares manufacturer MacKenzie-Childs, and helped make the company successful so that the historical town of Aurora could thrive. Pleasant also supported the preservation of history and culture closer to home – she donated $133.8 million to support the arts, education and historic preservation in Dane County, where she lives.
Her husband used $205 million from the sale of American Girl to build a performing arts center in their home town of Madison, Wisconsin. Still a teacher at heart, Learning and education is also important to Pleasant – she has contributed millions to a foundation that provides reading programs for schoolchildren.
Businesswoman, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
Eren Ozmen’s success story is unlikely, and you have probably never heard of her, unless you attend the University of Nevada, Reno.
Ozmen and her husband donated $5 million to UNR to support entrepreneurship and the creation of new businesses at the university’s college of business. It was the largest gift that the University had ever received. Not bad for someone who came to the United States from Turkey with limited English skills (and limited money), and a desire to get her MBA (Masters in Business Administration) at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Eren Ozmen is the Owner and President of Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), an aerospace company that manufactures electronics and equipment for satellites and space crafts.
After Eren earned her MBA, she went to work at a local company -- SNC. Her husband, Fatih Ozmen, was an intern there. Six years later, she was running the company, along with her husband. They grew the company together, acquiring 19 electronics firms, and now SNC is the Top Woman-Owned Federal Contractor in the United States and has been named Aerospace Company of the Year, with 33 locations worldwide and 3000 employees (2980 more than when Ozmen first bought the company).
It is also the fastest growing woman-owned company in North America. Ozmen is not only a savvy businesswoman, she also cares about her employees and work-life balance. She started an on-site day care facility for her employees early on, and several locations of SNC have been voted the “Best Place to Work” by her employees.
Industrialist, Entrepreneur, and Philanthropist
You’ve probably heard of The Giving Pledge, where extremely wealthy people commit to donating over half of their wealth by the time they die. Andrew Carnegie, perhaps the most famous American philanthropist, can take credit for making it cool to give your money away.
He once said: “No man can become rich without himself enriching others; the man who dies rich dies disgraced." Carnegie was born in Scotland in 1835, and moved to the United States with his parents when he was thirteen years old. They had no money.
He started working as a telegraph messenger boy for $2.50/hour and later went to work for the railroad, where he learned from a mentor how to manage a business, and how to invest his money. Through his investments, he made enough money to open a steel rolling mill, which helped meet the great demand for iron products generated by the Civil War.
He sold his steel company in 1901 for $480 million ($370 billion in today’s dollars) and spent the rest of his life giving his money away.
Education was important to Carnegie, and he funded over 3,000 public (free) libraries and several universities. He also loved music and the arts -- he funded 7,000 church organs and a place to listen to music – Carnegie Hall in New York City. By the time he died at age 83, Carnegie had given away $350,695,653 (approximately $76.9 billion in today’s dollars). Not bad for someone who started as a penniless immigrant.
Businesswoman, Environmentalist and Philanthropist
Most people think of Clif bars as a good-tasting, organic energy bar, but the company Clif Bar also does a whole lot of good things in the world – Kit Crawford makes sure of that. Her husband, Gary Erickson, invented the original Clif bar after getting frustrated by his energy bar options during a 175-mile bike ride. Combining his love of good food and cycling, Erickson experimented in his mother’s kitchen until he had a bar that he was happy with, and he launched “Kali’s Sport Naturals” with Crawford as the sales manager, in 1992.
In its first year, the company sold more than $700,000 in energy bars, and sales doubled each year after that. By 1997, when they changed the name to Clif Bar & Company, the company had made more than $20 million. Crawford eventually became co-CEO with her husband, and now serves as Co-Visionary Officer.
The company started out of a love for being active outdoors, and Clif Bar has maintained its commitment to sustainability, preserving the environment (70% of their ingredients are organic), and encouraging its employees to do the same.
Crawford started the Clif Bar Family Foundation in 2006 to make a bigger impact, serving as the president of the organization. For her work leading the Foundation, Crawford received a “Woman of Distinction” award. Crawford is also the advisor to Lunafest, a traveling film festival of award-winning short films made for, by, and about women that donate 100% of its net proceeds to the Breast Cancer Fund. For this work, and her dedication to eliminating the environmental causes of breast cancer, she was recognized as a Breast Cancer Fund Hero.
Under Crawford’s leadership, the Foundation has pledged $1 million to research and protect organic seeds – an important part of our food chain. Crawford and her husband have also contributed to the "1% for the Planet" fund, which preserve environmental causes all over the world.