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Make philanthropy real in 2016

December 31, 2015 | Nick Taylor

Make philanthropy real in 2016 – When Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan announced the birth of their baby, Max, they did so through, surprise, a Facebook post.

The new parents wrote: “Max, we love you and feel a great responsibility to leave the world a better place for you and all children.

“We wish you a life filled with the same love, hope and joy you give us.”

But, the Facebook post contained more news as the couple announced that they will donate 99% of their shares in Facebook, worth about $45 billion, to a new foundation they’ve created to ‘promote equality for all children in the next generation.’

Zuckerberg and Chan wrote: “We know this is a small contribution compared to all the resources and talents of those already working on these issues, but we want to do what we can, working alongside many others.”

Forty years ago, a young man called Bill Gates and his childhood friend Paul Allen bet that software and personal computers would change the way people around the world worked and played. The story of Microsoft shows that Gates bet has been more than achieved.

Fifteen years ago, with his wife Melinda, they made a similar bet. They started a foundation in 2000 with the idea that by backing innovative work in health and education, they could help dramatically reduce inequality across the World. The established the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

These huge philanthropic initiatives are often talked about but the results are sometimes not seen by us all and whilst the names of Zuckerberg and Gates are well known, what about some of the philanthropists you may not have heard of.

Take Chuck Feeney – how many people reading this have heard of Charles Francis “Chuck” Feeney, the Irish-American businessman and the founder of The Atlantic Philanthropies, one of the largest private foundations in the world.

If you travelled through any airport in the sixties, seventies and beyond then you might have just undertaken some ‘duty-free’ shopping and it might have been that the sales and concessions you received came as part of a transaction with the Duty-Free Shoppers Group founded by Feeney and a business partner. Feeney made his fortune, but then he did something quite unexpected and decided to embark on 30 years of work to invest what he had made into worthwhile causes.

Feeney adopted a simple philosophy called ‘Giving While Living.’ He summed it up: “I see little reason to delay giving when so much good can be achieved through supporting worthwhile causes today.”

The Atlantic Philanthropies started to invest capital in building projects across the world – like the first hurricane-proof clinic in the Caribbean, research and cultural facilities in Ireland, health centres in Vietnam, biotechnology facilities in Australia, a technology campus in Silicon Valley and buildings set up to tackle the most pressing issues in the world such as challenging apartheid in South Africa. And, the building of an international Peace Centre in Warrington, England – the home and focal point for the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace.

Feeney and The Atlantic Philanthropies supported Colin and Wendy Parry in providing the capital to build the Peace Centre – that has now been open for 15 years and is visited by over 10,000 people a year and influences incredible change in the difficult disciplines of conflict resolution and peacebuilding.

2016 will see The Atlantic Philanthropies make its final grants and the end of the ‘Giving While Living’ project. But, Chuck Feeney’s legacy will live on and the buildings he has funded, including the Peace Centre, lay the foundations of change by providing life-changing structures that promote opportunity and social progress. This is at the heart of philanthropy and without it, organisations like the Foundation for Peace would not be able to function. The challenges we face to create a peaceful society are at the heart of what drives the likes of the philanthropists such as Priscilla Chan, Mark Zuckerberg, Melinda Gates, Bill Gates and of course, Chuck Feeney.

As we enter 2016 we will all make resolutions – to get fit, eat well, give up something or maybe take something up. We could do no better than to make space in our lives for personal philanthropy, or to encourage those we know such as our employers or friends, family or colleagues to do the same. You don’t have to be called Zuckerberg, Gates or even Chuck Feeney to make an impact. That little bit of time to volunteer or fundraise or a donation can make such a difference.

So, in 2016, let us make philanthropy real.

If you would like to help the Foundation for Peace in 2016 then please contact us.

This article is written in tribute to philanthropists and in particular, Chuck Feeney and The Atlantic Philanthropies as they prepare to make their final grants in 2016.

The Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace is a charity that specialises in the prevention, resolution and response to violent conflict – to find out more click here

Read more about Chuck Feeney and his latest Philanthropy projects here