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James Bond of Philanthropy – Chuck Feeney

By Annisa Essack

20:09:2020

Chuck Feeney was once a billionaire, the co-founder of a retail giant granted him the full wallet. However, once he reached the top, he set himself a new goal – to carve away all of his towering foundations through charity.

In doing so he is relatively broke. So, instead of a sprawling manor, he calls a small apartment home, content that his heart wants nothing because all the funds that could have bought those excesses went instead to numerous noble causes.

At the ripe old age of 89, Chuck Feeney already has a lot to look back on with pride. Feeney is the co-founder of Duty-Free shoppers, a retail giant based in airports. He, together with Robert Miller launched this initiative back in 1960 that left Feeney with several billion dollars.

Throughout his life, however, he ensured that he gave huge chunks of that wealth to important causes. Feeney outlined a thorough, aggressive plan for donating, Forbes calls him the James Bond of Philanthropy.

For over 40 years, he used his organisation, Atlantic Philanthropies, to donate $8 billion to charities, foundations, and universities the world over. However, in the middle of September, he was able to close it as he had used up all his funds.

Everything went towards efforts to establish peace in Northern Ireland, which experienced renewed tensions since Brexit talks, to advancing healthcare systems in Vietnam. $350 million alone went to turning Roosevelt Island in New York into a tech hub.

He literally put his money where his mouth is. In addition to launching a retail giant, Feeney also pioneered the idea of Giving While Living.  And he really means and lives by it. His and his wife’s sum in a retirement fund is $2 million and his cramped San Francisco apartment is austere.

Feeney explained, “I see little reason to delay giving when so much good can be achieved through supporting worthwhile causes today. Besides, it’s not more fun to give while you live than to give while you are dead.”

As Forbes notes, Feeney says whilst living is to directly oversee what goes where and make sure his dreams are realised. His approach exists in opposition to saving everything until death and trusting a will to see the job done.

Having donated $3.7 billion to education and $870 million went to fighting for human rights and social equality. Looking back on his empty bank vaults and scattered funds enriching important causes, Feeney says in hindsight he would do some things differently but that he was very satisfied and felt very good about “completing this on my watch.”

He offers gratitude to all who helped his endeavour and to those who might be interested in launching their own.

In conclusion, he says, “My thanks to all who joined us on this journey. And to those wondering about Giving While Living: Try it out, you’ll like it.”

Hear more from him in the video below.

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