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A late bloomer in philanthropy

After spending decades watching her husband’s wealth grow, one widow intends to spend the rest of her life giving it away as a philanthropist.

“Years ago, my husband made a very good investment that is still growing,” she told AAI while being interviewed during a feasibility study. “Some of our wealth came from a successful business that he ran for many years and I feel like that should be ours to keep. But the money that we only have due to a lucky investment, that I feel we should give away.”

And so, after her husband’s death several years ago, she began doing just that. Though her husband had made the financial decisions during his lifetime, this philanthropic novice now began recognizing and responding to the various needs around her. She started small and local, preferring to see for herself how her money was making a difference.

But before long, “word got out” and by now, she receives invitations to give from all over the country. While she’s no longer taking on new causes—she’s already in her 90s—she continues to support a variety of initiatives, especially those in her community that focus on education and children.

She spends much of her time in her philanthropy office, where she makes out checks, gathers information about charities and keeps detailed records of how much and where she gives each year. And, while she doesn’t hide her charity list, she also doesn’t broadcast it.

“Having my name in the paper isn’t my style,” she explains when asked why she prefers to keep her giving anonymous. This anonymity extends even to her children, whom she hasn’t involved in her giving decisions for a few reasons.

That said, she believes giving is very important, even for younger people. And as she describes the satisfaction received from supporting causes she believes in, one gets the feeling that had she to do it over again, she too would have practiced charitable giving much earlier in life.

As it is, she’s thankful that good health allows her to be so active in philanthropy now. She recounts what one friend told her as she speculated how long her health might allow her to continue in this work: “God isn’t going to let you die! He’s having too much fun watching you spend your money!”

By definition, a philanthropist possesses “a desire to improve the material, social, and spiritual welfare of humanity, especially through charitable activities.” This friend proves that desire can emerge at any age and in any circumstance—to the benefit of all.