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Joan Kroc and the joy of giving

By David Setzer
Philanthropy is an unusual activity, practiced by folks in wonderful ways and in surprising methods. One of the most intriguing to me in recent years has been the generosity of Joan Kroc, the widow of Ray Kroc whose fortune lay in the millions of dollars found in the hamburgers and French fries, etc. of the McDonald’s food chain.
A new book about the philanthropy of Ms. Kroc is quite revealing about her and her style of giving away her money. Lisa Napoli, the author of “Ray and Joan,” wrote that Ms. Kroc gave away a generous portion of her inherited millions for the simple reason that she gave away money because she enjoyed it and it was none of anybody else’s business, anyway.
Her philanthropy was especially interesting to me because she gave $225 million to National Public Radio on the occasion of her death in 2003. I envied her ability to share her dollars since NPR has long been one of my favorite charities, and when she died and her gift became known, I was particularly proud to know that I was in her philanthropic sphere, even though we were miles apart in our giving capacity. At the time, this was the largest gift ever received by a U.S. cultural institution.
I found it interesting that even though Ms. Kroc was quite generous, she was not known as a devoted listener to NPR, nor a regular contributor through the years. Who knows what tripped her philanthropic “switch.” I was especially pleased that NPR noted her gift and continues to recognize it to this day with regular announcements, on air, of the gift. That announcement is a terrific example to all development offices throughout the fund-raising universe of how to recognize gifts and make sure that others do as well.
Ms. Kroc’s story was in a recent book review by Lisa Napoli (Ray & Joan) published in the Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, issue of the Wall Street Journal.
David Setzer lives in Salisbury.

 

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