Successful entrepreneurs are lauded for many things: their creativity, intelligence, initiative, and especially their wealth . . . which we sometimes refer as their greed. But wealth is not necessarily the result of greed, and to link or equate the two is unfair when it comes to some of the world’s most powerful entrepreneurs.
A closer look at what these men and women do with their wealth suggests they should be respected for their charity and activism. Instead of broadly condemning the cupidity of entrepreneurs, try acquainting yourself with the following three amazing innovators who are using their good fortune to give back to their communities.
Such individuals often fly below the radar with regard to their benevolence but deserve recognition for making charitable work a priority.
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Gina Bianchini: Women 'lean in'
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg gets most of the credit for LeanIn, a program that focuses on elevating the status of women in the workplace. But she didn’t birth this professional revolution alone.
Gina Bianchini, founder and CEO of Mightybell, cofounded LeanIn with Sandberg to help other women reach for success. Since professional women, especially those in the male-dominated tech arena, know they need to stick together, it’s not surprising that Bianchini lends her time and money to LeanIn.
The surprise is how often she gets left out of the story, while Sandberg draws the spotlight. But Bianchini doesn’t do it for the recognition, of course. Instead, her work is driven by the simple notion that, “Empowering women with practical skills and a network of support just makes sense.” We couldn’t agree more.
Albert Scaglione: Putting artists in the classroom
The fact that creative classes -- music, art, etc. -- have been facing cuts across the U.S. public school system in recent decades is a crime. Arts instruction has been shown to improve student performance, making these cuts poor pedagogical practice.
Fortunately, figures like Albert Scaglione, founder of Park West Gallery, are working to reverse this trend. In a previous career, Scaglione was a NASA contractor as well as a professor at Wayne State University, but art has been his passion for decades.
Now, in addition to running more than 5,000 art auctions a year and coordinating 1,000 staff members, Scaglione works with the public-private organization, Turnaround Arts, to put professional artists in the classroom and provide the supplies that students need to participate. With his help, major creative figures like actress Kerry Washington and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, as well as visual arts prodigies like Autumn de Forest, have spent time working with youth across the country.
The gallery may fund his contributions to the classroom, but at this point Scaglione says he has the best of both worlds. “The idea that I could have this life," Scaglione says, "where I still have the opportunity to work with the artists, educate, bring art to the public: I’m thrilled about that.”
Don Grimm: Mentoring matters
Entrepreneurs are able to have a huge impact with their financial generosity, but being generous with their time, energy and influence is also worthwhile. Don Grimm, chairman of Hybridtech, Inc., is an excellent example.
Grimm happily spends his time teaching classes, giving presentations and working on-on-one with individuals trying to launch their careers. Says Grimm: “Mentoring . . . is something I do all the time. I did it this morning.”
The executive proves an essential point: It’s easy to give away money when you have a lot of it, but offering yourself through mentoring shows a greater investment in the success of others. Those of us who don’t have tremendous wealth can give back to by offering our time and talents to help others.
We live in a culture that combines demonization of great wealth with immense envy to create hostile attitudes toward the most successful, but it’s vital to remind ourselves that wealth isn’t the sign of a bad person. Instead, it's a signal that an individual has the potential to make a big difference.
Related: Why Philanthropy Is Good Business
That’s what we can see in the lives of Bianchini, Scaglione and Grimm . . . and there are hundreds, maybe thousands, more like them if you look. Rather than judge entrepreneurs for making money, let's start asking how we can participate in their philanthropic projects, or launch our own.