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The former secretary of the treasury made his fortune while serving as CEO of Goldman Sachs, one of the world’s largest and most successful investment banks. An avid nature lover, Paulson has been a member of The Nature Conservancy for decades and was the organization’s board chairman and co-chair of its AsiaPacific Council, where he worked with former president of the People’s Republic of China Jiang Zemin to preserve the Tiger Leaping Gorge in the Yunnan province. He donated $100 million worth of his Goldman Sachs stock in 2006 to a family foundation dedicated to conservation and environmental education and has reportedly pledged his entire fortune to the same cause upon his death.

One of the area’s most high-profile philanthropists, Reynolds found herself in the spotlight when she pledged $38 million to the Smithsonian Institution to create an exhibit to honor American heroes. Her heavy hand in the details angered many curators and historians – which resulted in Reynolds withdrawing her gift.Though critics continue to chatter about Reynolds’ supposed love of the limelight, praise is due for her large-scale philanthropy targeted towards education and the pursuit of excellence through the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation. The foundation pledged $100 million to the Kennedy Center (which was never paid, as it was contingent on federal support), but continues to sponsor major exhibitions at the National Gallery of Art, provide scholarships for low-income students in Washington, and support Ford’s Theatre, the Capital Area Foodbank, Charity Works, and the Children’s Inn at NIH, as well as Harvard and NYU.

ABEANDIRENEPOLLIN When there is already a street in Washington named after you (Abe Pollin Way), you are doing something right in the world of philanthropy. The owner of the Washington Wizards and the Verizon Center, along with his wife Irene, recently donated $1 million to the Society for Progressive Supranuclear Palsy - CUREPSP - a rare neurological disease which Mr. Pollin was diagnosed with several years ago. Abe Pollin helped fund the restoration of the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue and now serves as president of the board. Irene Pollin, a women’s health advocate, founded Sister to Sister: The Women’s Heart Health Foundation, in 2000 and currently serves as chairwoman. Together the couple re-launched Abe’s Table, a program to feed the underserved in the D.C. community, and give yearly sixfigure donations to local public schools.

MITCHRALESANDSTEVERALES These very private billionaires who run the show at the Danaher Corporation make philanthropy a priority. Mitch is a major donor to the National Gallery of Art, lending works by the likes of de Kooning and Rothko, and providing funds through the Glenstone Foundation for important acquisitions. Currently on the board of the Hirshhorn Museum, the trustees’ council of the National Gallery of Art, and the board of the SEED Foundation, Mitch Rales has been amassing a significant collection of modern and contemporary art at his Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Md. Rumor has it that he may one day donate this multi-million-dollar gallery as well. Steve Rales is a major supporter of the Washington Ballet as well as his alma mater DePauw University, and served as executive producer on two major films, “The Darjeeling Limited” and “The Fantastic Mr. Fox.”

RUSSANDNORMARAMSEY Chairman and CEO of Ramsey Asset management, Russ Ramsey is a lifelong Washingtonian who serves as chairman of George Washington University, where over the last five years, he and his wife have donated generously (including $1 million to the Ramsey Student Investment Fund, a portfolio managed by M.B.A. students). Founding investors of Venture Philanthropy Partners, the Ramseys also head the W. Russell and Norma G. Ramsey Foundation, and have given generously to the D.C. Capital Area’s Big Brothers Big Sisters and causes dedicated to at-risk families.


JOEROBERTJR When he wanted to make sure his contributions were meaningful, the self-made real-estate businessman established Fight for Children and it’s annual “Fight Night” and “School Night,” which have raised more than $105 million to support over 150 youth-serving organizations. Recently the Children’s National Medical Center has broken ground on a wing Robert funded with $25 million. A trustee of the Kennedy Center, he also serves as chairman of Business Executives for National Security, a group that gathers businessmen and entrepreneurs to provide non-partisan, free advice to national security leaders. Now battling serious illness, he remains an ever-present force whose giving has extended to cancer-related charities.

DAVIDANDALICERUBENSTEIN This former Jimmy Carter aide is the co-founder of the Carlyle Group, one of the world’s largest private-equity firms. His notable bequests include $5 million to Johns Hopkins University to help build a new outpatient facility for children and young adults; giving millions to Duke University; $5 million to Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in 2008; and serving on the boards of the Kennedy Center and Johns Hopkins University. The Rubensteins give multiple six-figure gifts to the Kennedy Center every year in support of special programming. When a rare copy of the Magna Carta was in jeopardy of leaving the U.S., this history buff came up with $21.3 million to ensure its new home would be in the U.S. Capitol. His wife Alice founded Alaska House New York and the Alaska Native Arts Foundation.

JEANNERUESCH After the death of foreign exchange and precious metals investor Otto Ruesch in 2004, his widow was elected to replace him as chairwoman of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, where they had spearheaded the effort to raise $100 million for the now-canceled Frank Gehry wing. Although she has given up the top post, she remains a sustaining trustee on the museum’s board where her continued direction and substantial gifts will help move

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on’t just write a check – make a difference. Be like Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg and Oprah Winfrey, who take a businesslike approach to giving while helping to solve major problems facing society. Here are five tips to being a better giver during the economic downturn: 1. Focus. Look at all the organizations you support, and decide which need your help the most. Use your money to ensure that the ones making a difference survive. 2. Scale up what works. Concentrate on helping proven approaches grow rather than supporting risky unproven ideas. Measure the impact of your giving to ensure your charitable dollars are used well. 3. Leverage. Find partners to get more bang for your buck. This is a great time to combine your resources with those of other philanthropists, businesses, and above all with government. 4. Look beyond your front door. Respond to local concerns, but remember that this is a global crisis and much of the world is suffering even more. Philanthropists do not face elections, so they should take the lead in showing the world’s poor that America cares. 5. Just do it. You have less to give away than you did before the recession and your instincts tell you to save money rather than give it away. But there is a real need for philanthropy right now. Dig deep and give away more effectively than ever before.

Matthew Bishop is the co-author (with Michael Green) of “Philanthrocapitalism – How the Rich Can Save the World.”


Washington Life Magazine - June 2009  

Find out who the region's top givers are in our Philanthropic 50 list. Plus contributions and advice for philanthropists, portraits of top c...

Washington Life Magazine - June 2009  

Find out who the region's top givers are in our Philanthropic 50 list. Plus contributions and advice for philanthropists, portraits of top c...