Philanthropic initiatives focus on promoting the welfare of others, usually through the donation of money to charitable causes. In America, numerous groups focus on improving the quality of life for those who are less fortunate. However, when it comes to philanthropy, three names are heard more often than others – Warren Buffett, Alice Walton, and Melinda Gates. These individuals have taken advantage of their success by reinvesting their wealth into the communities that surround them, bettering the lives of countless families.
Referred to as the “Oracle of Omaha,” Warren Buffett is an investor, business magnate, and world-renowned philanthropist who has served as chairman of Berkshire Hathaway since 1970. Forbes reports that, at one point, Warren was the world’s richest man. Still, he never let this title define him. He has done as much as possible to give his money to those who can best utilize it to help the society around us. Also holding the fitting title of the world’s most successful investor, he decided to take the money he earned and reinvest in what matters most – the various philanthropic needs of the U.S.
In 2006, Warren committed to gradually giving away 99% of his Berkshire Hathaway stock to philanthropic foundations. He stands firm in this commitment and has already donated approximately half of his wealth. In 2009, he partnered with Bill and Melinda Gates, becoming co-founder of the Giving Pledge. This pledge was created to inspire rich Americans to pledge at least 50% of their wealth to charity. Two years later, he was listed in Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. In 2010, he was named one of the most influential global thinkers. The following year, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
Warren Buffett has demonstrated many times that he values his philanthropic work over his net worth. He continues to actively support his family’s individual foundations, including Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, Sherwood Foundation, Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and NoVo Foundation. Yet, he has also made it clear that he won’t be leaving his children a lot of money. He has seen how wealth can impact a family and believes it is more important that he share with his children and grandchildren his desire to help others than to give them a large inheritance. Warren also participates in auctions where the winning bidder receives a luncheon with him, and the proceeds are used to fund different philanthropic foundations. [Wikipedia]
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Heiress to the Walmart fortune and second richest woman in the world, Alice Walton, has dedicated her life to philanthropic works. She believes in bettering the world by increasing access to arts, supporting education, and enhancing economic opportunities. Much of her work so far has been dedicated to the arts, but her goals for the future continue to expand her efforts into other important areas. Much of her philanthropic work focuses on her local community of Bentonville, Arkansas.
Alice founded the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in 2011, a 120-acre park with galleries, classrooms, a gathering hall, a library featuring over 50,000 art reference volumes, and a five-mile walking trail of sculptures. This Museum’s permanent collection contains five centuries of American art, including works created by Indigenous people and other artists who traditionally have been underrepresented in most museums. She is also a member of the Walton Family Foundation and the founder of the Alice L. Walton foundation.
In 2017, Alice founded Art Bridges, a nonprofit foundation that partners with a wide variety of institutes to provide greater access to American art. This foundation supports several projects geared towards creating deeper engagement within communities. Recently, she led the formation of the Whole Health Institute and is deeply involved in the development of the Whole Health School of Medicine and Health Services, both based in Bentonville. The goal is to create an arena where health and well-being are both affordable and accessible.
Alice Walton is passionate about outreach in her community and beyond. She became the first chairperson of the Northwest Arkansas Council, which played a major role in improving the transportation infrastructure of the area. She also established Camp War Eagle, a summer camp available to children of all different socio-economic backgrounds. She has received The Archives of American Art Medal from the Smithsonian Institute and the John Cotton Dana Medal for Visionary Leadership in Museums from the American Alliance of Museums. In 2018, she was inducted into the International Women’s Forum Hall of Fame. [Wikipedia]
Alice Walton Steps Down as Chairperson: Expanding Horizons
Alice Walton has long been known for her philanthropic work and her love of the arts. Much of her work focuses on her hometown of Bentonville. Her desire has been to create a place rich in art and other forms of social connection. She is most well-known for helping make Bentonville, Arkansas an art destination. This museum offers both in-person and virtual art events in the hopes of reaching a larger community and bringing people together.
She is known for her vast collection of art, and her commitment to making the art world more accessible for those less fortunate. Alice Walton recently announced that she would be stepping down as the board chairperson for the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
Walton has led the board of the Crystal Bridges Museum since opening its doors in 2011. This nonprofit museum was a major component of economic and artistic growth in Northwest Arkansas. This museum has been a cultivation of her passion for the arts, and her desire to make art accessible. She will continue to stay involved, transitioning to the function of a board member of Crystal Bridge, which she first created as a non-profit in 2005. A close family member Olivia Walton, is taking the role of leading the board as chairperson.
Alice Walton couldn’t be happier to have a family member take her place. In a news release, she had nothing but praise for Olivia Walton, extolling her lifelong passion for the arts and acknowledging what an excellent museum board leader she will be now into the next decade. While Alice Walton will continue to be a part of the museum, she also wanted to free more of her time to focus on additional artistic and philanthropic work.
Expanding Her Focus
Alice Walton continues to dedicate her life to philanthropic work. Her step down as chairperson is largely due to her desire to work on other projects. Along with her passion for art, she also has a passion for health and well-being. She is deeply engaged in the Whole Health Institute, as well as the Whole Health School of Medicine and Health Sciences, that she founded recently. The goal of these new projects is to create an arena where health and well-being are both accessible and affordable. She also helped to establish Camp War Eagle, which is a summer camp for all socio-economic backgrounds. Alice Walton had often expressed her desire to branch from the art world to continue helping those in need in other areas. This move highlights her desire to continue her philanthropic work outside of the art world. She is excited to see how new, fresh leadership will continue to inspire and shape the projects of the Crystal Bridges Museum.
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Former computer scientist and general manager at Microsoft, Melinda Gates is an American philanthropist who consistently ranks as one of the world’s most powerful women. During her career in the technological industry, she witnessed first-hand the struggles of being a woman in a male-driven industry and became passionate about achieving greater gender equality in such fields. Her passion for empowering women can be seen through much of her philanthropic work.
Melinda is best known for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which she co-founded in 2000. She is responsible for shaping and approving the foundation’s strategies, reviewing the results of their charitable efforts, and setting the organization’s overall direction. This foundation continues to be one of the world’s largest private charitable organizations. Her philanthropic work has been acknowledged for quite some time, going back to 2002, where she received a Jefferson Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged. In 2016, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her philanthropic efforts from President Barack Obama.
Although Melinda and Bill are separated, she continues to serve as co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where she focuses on helping people achieve healthy, happy, and productive lives. She helped found The Giving Pledge, which consists of the upper society of America committing at least half of their wealth to the betterment of society. In 2015, she founded Pivotal Ventures, an organization that strives to identify problems affecting woman and their families in the workplace and implement creative solutions to solve them. [Wikipedia]
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Benefits of Philanthropy
Warren Buffett, Alice Walton, and Melinda Gates have all committed to using their success to benefit others. They all believe that the richest individuals should not simply hold onto their wealth but share it with the greater population. Through the philanthropic endeavors of people like them, the lives of countless Americans have been enriched with funding, education, and programming opportunities.