October 29th, 2010
As a passionate environmentalist, John Hunting believes the time to give is now. When he inherited $130M from the office furniture company his father started, he committed nearly all of it to the Beldon Fund for environmental grantmaking. Instead of paying out just 5% a year like most foundations do, John directed the entire corpus to be given out within ten years.
When I got a $130,000,000 windfall in 1998, I decided to give it away quickly. If you’re an environmentalist like me, given the state of the world, you can’t afford to wait.
When I was 6 years old, my father gave me stock in a small company he co-founded, Metal Office Furniture Company, which made fireproof safes and steel wastebaskets. Eventually it became the world’s largest manufacturer of office equipment, Steelcase. In 1998, the company went public, and my stock surged.
I already had the practice of giving away 50% or more of my income over the prior 30 years. I had given away 100% for ten years when I had a trust that let me give away more without tax consequences. I had started a foundation, the Beldon Fund, so when my stock rose in value, it seemed natural to pass $100,000,000 of my new wealth to the foundation.
The Beldon Fund was set up to run for 10 years and will spend out by 2009. I’ve also decided to give away the rest of my inheritance by 2010.
The wonderful thing about giving away more than half of my income is that it frees me up to make more political contributions. I also believe in giving as much as possible to political candidates and causes. Environmental issues are strengthened or destroyed by what Congress and the President do – just look at the devastation we’ve seen since 2000! That’s why it’s imperative to support candidates and political groups. I give the maximum tax deductible amount, 50% of income, to foundations and charities, and then give the rest to partisan groups (such as 501(c)4s, PACs and 527s).
I believe that it is immoral to hoard money when global warming is on the verge of destroying the eco-systems we depend on.
The time to give is now.