15 Little Known Rich Families that have Positively Impacted Philanthropy

The rich often get a bad reputation for forgetting about the poor and living lavish lifestyles. However, there are many wealthy families who find time and money to help others. Sometimes, it is families who have a long tradition of both wealth and philanthropy. Other times, struggling business people have successfully found the American dream and want to ensure that others have the same opportunities as they do. Through using their money for good, these individuals and families inspire others.

Famously, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett give away a lot of their fortune to help others. In fact, in 2010 they set up a challenge to other billionaires to give away a significant portion of their profits. Although many have answered the challenge, there are many who did not even need to be challenged. Giving to the less fortunate is a simple, obvious step for them.

Many people who have been lucky enough to gain a fortune know that they do not need a whole lot of it. Although some spend their money lavishly, many opt to be more conservative. While leading simple lifestyles, they ensure that they leave the planet better than they left it. Some families, whether it is just a husband and wife or generations of the same family, only decide to really give to charities and other organizations once they have retired and have the time to really give. Although the benefactors range from education to human rights to the environment, the final product is the same. Generosity helps create a better future for many.

Estee Lauder Family

For many women, Estee Lauder is a household name. Born to Hungarian Jewish immigrant in 1908, Estee, known then as Josephine Ester Mentzner, truly lived the American dream, as PBS’s They Made America shows. She grew up in a small apartment in Queens, New York over the family’s hardware store. Drive, gumption, and a love of cosmetics drew her to become a pioneer of cosmetics. She convinced Sacks Fifth Avenue to sell her high-end cosmetics, gambling everything and creating the first product herself. She and her husband sat in their apartment bottling the initial products. Through many risks and adventures, including launching the idea of the free gift and gift with purchase, Estee Lauder soon became a household name in cosmetics. Her company includes many other brands of cosmetics, including Clinique, Philosphie, and MAC.

Although Estee Lauder is known for her cosmetics, her family’s philanthropy is lesser known. The company continually goes beyond just free gifts to provide parts of its profits to the environment, breast cancer, AIDS, and other social issues, as seen on the company’s website. However, the family goes beyond the company and continually gives out of their own pockets. Recently, Leonard Lauder made history and became one of the most generous philanthropists of all time. He gave $1.1 billion dollars’ worth of art to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. That gift was worth 13.5% of his new worth, and he joins only 23 other people in the world who have given over $1 billion, according to Forbes.

Tisch Family

Walk around New York City, and the TIsch name will follow you around much of the city. However, unlike many names on buildings, it is not because they own the buildings or the companies. Instead, the Tisch name is on buildings due to generous donations. NYU’s Tisch School of Arts, the TIsch Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Tisch Hospital are just a few examples of organizations that owe at least part of their existence to the generous TIsch family. Although wealthy, the Tischfamily chooses to live simply and gave generously. One of their more recent philanthropic endeavors is helpingrenovate Washington Square Park, according to Business Insider.

Although a very wealthy family, their legacy did not begin until shortly after World War II, according to the Observer.com. Two brothers used a knack for acquiring business to build an empire known as the Lowes Corporation. Owning a variety of businesses that range from hotels to movie theaters to the New York Giants to CBS, the TIsch family has always spent time ensuring that the city they call home continues to have institutions that will benefit the lives of its citizens. Although their company has gone through changes, including ups and downs, philanthropy has always remained a key component in each member of the Tisch family’s private lives.

Cargill Family

In 1865, an agricultural empire was born. Although it started small, it soon grew into a giant, having over a 130,000 employees in over 63 countries, according to Forbes. As the company passed through generations of children, it grew, as did the cumulative wealth. Much of the family remains hidden, choosing to lead a very private life, so their philanthropic adventures are not well known. However, one descendent of the original Cargill family trumped all of her family in philanthropy–and most of the world. Margaret Cargill gave her entire share of the company to a foundation when she passed away in 2011.

According to Philantrhopy.com, the combined total of money reaches about $9 billion dollars. Once everything is settled, they have the ability to become one of the highest grant makers in America. There are two main funds. One is the Margaret A. Cargill foundation, which will give money to a variety of causes including animals, arts and culture, the elderly, the environment, children, and relief and recovery. The other fund will be the Anne Ray Charitable trust, which assists several charities including the American Red Cross. A third, smaller fund focused on groups in Southern California was also set up, the Akaloa fund.

Pew Family

The Pew family made their fortune with the Sun Oil Company, now known as Sunoco. In 1957 they made the list in Fortune magazine’s most wealthy families in America. The first of the Pews to enter the oil business, Joseph Newton, joined forces with Philip Pisano and Edward O. Emerson to found the Peoples Natural Gas Co. in 1886. At only 25, Pew began to gain wealth as he hit oil and built a refinery. The company continued to grow and pass on through the family. After Joseph died, his brother J. Howard reined. According to the Main Line news, J. Howard lived a simple life. His spiritual life led him to a life of philanthropic causes. He wanted to share the wealth that his family was fortunate enough to have received. He focused on two main causes, his college Grove City College and the Pew Charitable Trust.

Still around, the Pew Charitable Trust changed from a foundation to a non-profit in 2004. More than half of the board members are still family members, and their aim is to remain true to the founding spirit of the trust–to meet social pressing needs. According to the Trust’s annual report, the Trust has over $5 billion dollars in assets, which it uses for a variety of causes, including research, innovation, public opinion, arts and culture, and environment issues.

Kohler Family

The Kohler family made their fortune on bath and shower fixtures. According to Forbes, the company was founded in 1873 and now tops the industry in America. Starting in 1984, the company expanded, buying more than 40 brands in various divisions. There are now four divisions of the company, including kitchen and bath, furniture and tile, engines and generators, and golf and resort destinations.Additionally, there are now 51 plants in 16 countries. Although at first Herbert Jr, the current CEO, was hesitant to take over from his father, he turned out to be a savvy businessman. He continued his father’s successful business and increased its shares. However, despite the empire of bathroom fixtures, the Kohler family has never lost site of their civic duty.

The Kohler family was listed in Town and County magazines top 10 list of most generous families. The family created a nonprofit entitled the Kohler Foundation. Its main focus is on the arts. It collects 20th Century art. Additionally, the foundation supports educational and artistic initiatives. Through helping enrich the art world, they are helping to expand the beauty in the world. Additionally, art is often left out of education, and their foundation is trying to ensure the continued access to arts education.

Paul G. Allen Family

Bill Gates is well known for his charity work and his founding of Microsoft, but his lesser-known partner Paul G. Allen is equally charitable. A childhood friend of Bill Gates, he helped start Microsoft in 1975 and now owns Vulcan, Inc. It is a company that oversees his various business and philanthropic efforts. He has holdings in dozens of businesses, real estate deals, and professional sports teams. However, his main philanthropic venture is the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

According to the Foundation’s website, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Allen has pledged to leave the majority of his estate to the foundation and direct gifts. He has a strong commitment to advancing brain science and global animal health, along with other scientific advancements. It has opened two centers, the School for Global Animal Health at Washington State University and the Allen Institute for Brain Science. Additionally, according to the Vulcan website, Allen focuses many of his attentions on the Pacific Northwest, where he grew up and still calls home. The foundations wants to support education, the arts, and the needs of vulnerable populations, in addition to the scientific advancement.

Irwin Jacobs and Family

Irwin Jacobs found his fortune in the technology boom by co-founding the wireless chip manufacturer Qualcomm in 1985. Although he began his career as an academic, he soon found success in practical application of his knowledge. Having been educated at Cornell and MIT, he taught computer science at the University of California San Diego starting in 1966. However, once Qualcomm took off, his academic career ended. Although he left the board in 2012, according to Forbes, the company remains in the family.

Irwin and his wife Joan are well known in San Diego for their philanthropic efforts. In addition to a large donation to MIT for fellowships, they have also given money to the San Diego Symphony. According to Business Week, they have also given gifts to the San Diego Natural History Museum to help a Dead Sea Scroll exhibit. The Jacobs have also supported UC San Diego and the American Society for Technion. He helped fund a graduate school at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. Additionally, they have provided much support around San Diego to local theater, library and children’s museums.

Edythe and Eli Broad

After a successful career in the homebuilding industry, the Broad family has decided to turn away from making a profit to sharing what they have with others. Another great example of the American dream, Eli Broad gained his fortune through homebuilding. He and his partner Donald Kaufman made their fortune creating inexpensive but quality homes to be built. Although he did very well in the home building industry, having one of the first home building markets on the stock market, Broad new the business was cyclical and wanted to diversity. He and Kaufman turned to insurance. Their first insurance firm was Sun America. Eventually, it merged into AIG in 1999, and Broad stepped down and turned his full focus to philanthropy, along with his wife.

The family foundation was first created in the 1960s to help support the various charities. However, Broad soon decided to use his business savvy skills towards venture philanthropy. Much of the foundations support go to education, science and the arts. A great example of their success is the Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University. According to its website, it was set to be a game changer in the region, and so far it has been very successful at bringing art and culture to the area.

Seidman Family

Jane and Lee Seidman proclaim themselves lifelong philanthropists, citing their parents as inspiration for providing them with a tradition of giving, according to UH Hospitals website. Although neither grew up with large fortunes, both of their parents raised them to be charitable and give to those less fortunate. They never lost touch of that background, even once they became more successful. Lee Seidman founded the Motorcars Group in 1958, which grew to become one of the nation’s largest networks of auto dealership. With the success of his company, he and his wife decided to devote some of their fortune to others. The main focus of their philanthropy is the healthcare community.

The Seidmanfamily has supported many different hospitals. The Motorcars Group has long supported the University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital through the Children’s Miracle Network. Additionally, in 2008 the Seidmans themselves donated an additional $1 million dollars. Two years later, they gave $42 million to aid in cancer services. According to My Cleveland Clinic, they have also bestowed money to the Hillcrest Hospital.

Meyer and Renee Luskin

Meyer Luskin began his life humbly, commuting to UCLA in 1949 from Boyle Heights. However, with his economics degree he went on to run a diversified company. He was able to use his education and create a career, running a successful company that eventually became an exclusively animal feed product manufacturer, according to UCLA’s newsroom. As CEO of Scope Industries, which uses recycled bakery waste for its animal feed, Meyer now has the opportunity to give back to UCLA. He credits his education with allowing him the opportunity to become successful, as well as meeting his wife.

Meyer and Renee have generously given UCLA $100 million dollars, providing them ranking No. 9 on Philanthropy.com’s ranking of 50 most generous people. Half of the donation will endow the school of Public Affairs. Forty million will go towards building a conference center, guest quarters and a faculty club. The remaining 10 will allow for a speaker series. Through this generous donation, the university will be able to bring in guest speakers to enhance the student’s education. They have previously given large amounts to the University, including a $5 million dollar donation to establish the Luskin Center for Innovation.

Marc and Lynne Benioff

Marc Benioff made his fortune through salesforce.com. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Benioff began his career at the age of 15, starting a software company while still in high school. In 1999, he founded salesforce.com.Salesforce quickly took off, providing a service not on the market at the time. Additionally, the success of Salesforce led the way to the popularity of software as service. In addition to his business and technology skills, Marc has turned his talents to philanthropy. He and his wife have donated millions of dollars, along with their time and effort.

After a medical issue, they turned their charitable thoughts towards hospitals. According to the UCSF Bnioff Children’s Hospital, the Beioffs gave $100 million to help build a new 184-bed hospital. They have also given money to help the homeless, especially single mothers and their children. Not satisfied with giving away their own money, the Benioffs have also begun attempting to persuade other successful business people to do the same, often meeting face to face. They especially are focused on raising money for the UCSF Medical Center, according to Forbes.

David and Patricia Atkinson

David Atkinson was raised on a successful farm with a father who only had a ninth grade education. In 1960, he received his bachelor’s degree from Cornell and began his successful money-management career, but he never forgot his agricultural roots. He eventually found his way to partner with Miller, Anderson and Sherrard, retiring in 1992. He now has his own investment business, Atkinson and Company. He and his wife, Patricia, make sure that their money is spread around and help others. According to Philanthorpy.com, one of their major concerns is ensuring a productive agriculture sector. David Atkinson feels secure in the knowledge that this is the key to economic development.

Atkinson took matters into his own hands to assist in sustainability. He and his wife provided a major gift to create Cornell’s Center for a Sustainable Future, according to the university’s website. It began in 2007 with a $3 million pilot program, which they then enhanced with $80 million in 2010. They have also provided money to help with the American Studies department and the Biology and Environmental Studies departments.

George Soros

George Soros is a legend in the hedge fund community. According to Open Society Foundation’s website, he grew up in Hungary, eventually fleeing communist Hungary in 1947 to study in London and found his way in New York. He used many of the life lessons he learned, along with his extensive philosophy and economic studies, in Hungary and beyond to shape his financial maneuvers. He created the Quantum Fund, one of the first hedge funds. His success and background also led him to focus an enormous amount of time and money on charitable actions.

George Soros set up the Open Society Foundation to support human rights and democracy in over 70 countries. According to Forbes.com, the Soros Fund Management, which manages both his personal and foundation’s money, is a $24 billion firm. He has given over $8.5 billion to human rights, education and health groups since 1979. Many of his funds have helped create various organization to fight for a variety of rights, including Revenue Watch, which ensures citizens benefit from their own country’s’ resources.

Larry Ellison

Larry Ellison is the founder of Oracle, the world’s second largest software company. According to CNN, Ellison found inspiration for Oracle from a 1976 white paper at IBM research. With a net worth of almost $43 billion, according to Forbes, Ellison is one of the wealthiest men. Although he is more known for his lavish lifestyle, buying a Hawaiian island and other real estate, he also has a softer side.

Ellison has jumped on board the Gates-Buffett Giving pledge in 2010. To date, he has donated more than $445 million to EllisonMedical Foundation. Most of the donation is in Oracle stock. The foundation supports research on aging and age-related diseases.

Roy and Diana Vagelos

Roy Vagelos is a successful doctor who has not forgotten the universities that helped shape his career. Vagelos is a renowned leader in the pharmaceutical industry and former CEO of Merck and Co, Inc. He attended University of Pennsylvania for his undergraduate degree and headed to medical school at Columbia University. He owes much of his success to his education, and ensures that others can have the same opportunities he had. After graduating, he had his fellowship at the Massachusetts General Hospital. He then decided to focus on research at the National Institutes of Health. He soon became renowned for his work in lipids and enzymes. After working in academia, he found his way to Merck and Co.

In addition to his work, Vagelos has also acted as advisor for many organizations on public policy and advisory. According to Columbia University’s website, Vagelos has a fondness for his alma mater. He remembers the great lab and work that was there when he was a student, and he wants to ensure the same for others. He has given $50 million towards a new medical and graduate education building. Additionally, according to the University of Pennsylvania website, there are seven different grants provided by Vagelos, all in the science departments.


These 15 families, some small and other large, have all contributed large amounts of their wealth to help those in need. Whether it is education, the arts, the homeless, other countries, their alma maters, or hospitals, each of these families have a special project close to their hearts. Most of these wealthy families and individuals remain relatively anonymous. They may be known in their field or in the places bearing their names, but a majority of people does not recognize the names. However, they do not give just to be acknowledged for it. They believe in a cause and want to contribute.

Along with these more fortunate people, everyone can get involved with charity. Whether it is $50 million or just $50, any amount of money can help charities. Additionally, you can volunteer your time or services to a variety of charities if you cannot afford to give money. Although sometimes it seems easier for the wealthy to give to charity, the generosity of these families inspire many to give as well.

Many charities and organizations rely on volunteers and donations of both money and goods. Without generous support from both large benefactors and small, they could not exist. Whether they are fighting for animal rights, the environment, children, medical care, or human rights, each one needs help. Through giving large percentages of their wealth, these wealthy families lead by example. Although there are still many of the 1% not concerned with the needs of the poor, it is good to know that a lot are.

Like the article? Share it.

LinkedIn Pinterest

One Comment

  1. Nice tutorials, I’ve already seen some of them but anyway they are still stunning.

Leave a Comment Yourself

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *