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You Don't Have to Be Rich to Do Good

Too many people figure that because they can only spare $25 or $50 a month, there's no reason they should save up for a college education, to buy a house, or for retirement. They say that if they aren't earning a seven-figure salary, they don't have a chance of actually reaching their financial goals.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Even small amounts of savings add up over time. But you won't get to the finish line if you never bother starting at all.

How to be charitable
Similarly, ordinary folks often make the same kinds of arguments against making charitable gifts. With successful billionaire entrepreneurs putting their vast resources toward charitable endeavors, you may think that your small gift won't make any meaningful difference for your community. But in reality, the huge gifts that those wealthy philanthropists make are only one part of what makes a charity succeed.

Nevertheless, it's tough to look at the huge amounts of money that the nation's biggest charitable foundations have at their disposal. Take a look at some of them, along with their most recently available asset figures:


Corporate Affiliation of Founding Donor(s)

Total Assets

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Microsoft $29.9 billion
Ford Foundation Ford Motor (NYSE: F  ) $10.2 billion
J. Paul Getty Trust Getty Oil $9.3 billion
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  ) $7.5 billion
William & Flora Hewlett Foundation Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) $6.9 billion
W.K. Kellogg Foundation Kellogg (NYSE: K  ) $6.8 billion
David & Lucile Packard Foundation Hewlett-Packard $5.7 billion
John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Bankers Life, now CNO Financial (NYSE: CNO  ) $5.2 billion
Lilly Endowment Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY  ) $5.1 billion
Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) $4.5 billion

Source: Foundation Center. Assets based on database as of Oct. 20 and include most recently available fiscal year for foundations.

With tens of billions of dollars available to further worthy causes throughout the world, a $25 check or an hour of your time may seem worthless. But it's not.

Make a difference
Much more common than these big charitable foundations are smaller charities that have extremely modest budgets. They don't have billionaire philanthropists to support them, instead relying on people like you to give what they can of both their money and their time.

That's the spirit behind the Motley Fool's 2010 Foolanthropy campaign. This year, we're again focusing our efforts on Thurgood Marshall Academy, a local public charter school in one of our area's most impoverished neighborhoods.

Even if you're thousands of miles away, you can still help. For every comment you make on this or any other Fool article between now and Jan. 7, we'll add $0.10 to our campaign pledge. At the end of the campaign, we'll give the entire amount to the school, up to $20,000. In addition, many Fools have already volunteered to help the school in its mission to serve local youth.

Close to home
Most local charities need every penny they can get. So as December rolls in, please don't think that you can't make a difference. No matter how little you can afford to give, what you do contribute is important.

How do you help make your community a better place to live? Chime in with your comments and add a dime to Thurgood Marshall Academy's coffers!

To learn more about the school or to make a donation, you can visit TMA's website here.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger knows firsthand the value of small gifts. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. Intel and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Ford Motor is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Johnson & Johnson, and Kellogg are Motley Fool Income Investor choices. The Fool owns shares of Intel, Johnson & Johnson, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool's disclosure policy gives you the goods every day.

Read/Post Comments (6) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2010, at 10:23 AM, TMFEdyboom223 wrote:

    Keep up the good work!

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2010, at 11:12 AM, wstevew wrote:

    God bless MF for noting the "goodness" that is in the world.


  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2010, at 1:10 PM, newb12investor wrote:

    Good. I'd like to know if multiple comments on the same article, from same person/username also count towards increasing the money donated.

    thanks :)

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2010, at 7:38 PM, DDHv wrote:

    Our household tries to put even amounts into giving and into investing. We also try to research both - we simply can't afford to be wasteful.

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2010, at 9:26 AM, jessjdc wrote:

    From a TMA staff member, thank you to all you loyal MF readers for your comments!

  • Report this Comment On December 12, 2010, at 2:10 PM, luvfemi wrote:

    Great idea! I will surely donate to the Thurgood Marshall Academy.

Add your comment.

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Dan Caplinger

Dan Caplinger has been a contract writer for the Motley Fool since 2006. As the Fool's Director of Investment Planning, Dan oversees much of the personal-finance and investment-planning content published daily on With a background as an estate-planning attorney and independent financial consultant, Dan's articles are based on more than 20 years of experience from all angles of the financial world.

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Foolanthropy 2010

“With an innovative, deserving partner in Thurgood, we’re focusing our efforts where Fools can make a real difference,” says Motley Fool Co-founder and CEO Tom Gardner. This holiday season, help The Motley Fool give disadvantaged students a superior education.

To learn more about our adopted school, or to make a donation, click here.

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