Giving While Living…a billionaire’s different brand of philanthropy


The former billionaire co-founder of airport retail giant Duty Free Shoppers has given away all of his massive wealth and is now broke, but insists he couldn’t be happier, according to the Daily Mail

For Feeney, 89, it’s not just giving to charity. The billionaire’s kind of philanthropy is completely different. He pioneered the idea of Giving While Living, the idea to spend fortunes on big charitable donations during one’s lifetime instead of creating a foundation upon death. Little wonder, he is nicknamed “James Bond of Philanthropy”

Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney, raked in billions with the creation of Duty Free Shoppers with Robert Miller in 1960, but wanted to die without any money.

But the philanthropist was famous for his promise to give all his money away to charitable causes, a dream that was fulfilled this year in September after donating more than $8billion to charities, universities, and foundations through his organization Atlantic Philanthropies.

He gave $3.7billion to education – including nearly $1billion to his alma mater Cornell, more than $870million to human rights and social change including $62million in grants to abolish the death penalty in the US and $76million for grassroots campaigns supporting the passage of Obamacare, according to Forbes.

He also gave more than $700million in gifts to health causes ranging from a $270million grant to improve public healthcare in Vietnam to a $176million gift to the Global Brain Health Institute at the University of California, San Francisco.

One of his final gifts was a $350million donation for Cornell to build a technology campus on New York City’s Roosevelt Island.

‘We learned a lot. We would do some things differently, but I am very satisfied. I feel very good about completing this on my watch,’ Feeney said to Forbes.

‘My thank to all who joined us on this journey. And to those wondering bout Giving While Living: try it, you’ll like it.’

In 2012 Feeney said he set aside $2million for his and his wife’s retirement with plans to donate the rest.

Feeney isn’t one to boast and gave much of his money away anonymously, giving way to the nickname the ‘James Bond of Philanthropy’.

Through Atlantic Philanthropies, which he founded in 1984, he’s given to efforts to bring peace to Northern Ireland, modernized Vietnam’s health care system, and focused on expanding education.

‘I see little reason to delay giving when so much good can be achieved through supporting worthwhile causes. Besides, it’s a lot more fun to give while you live than give while you’re dead,’ he said last year.

On September 14, 2020 Feeney completed his four-decade mission and signed the documents to dissolve Atlantic Philanthropies.

On September 14, 2020 Feeney completed his four-decade mission and signed the documents to dissolve Atlantic Philanthropies.

Feeney and his wife Helga Feeney celebrated with a ceremony over Zoom with the foundation’s board that included video messages from Bill Gates and former California Governor Jerry Brown.


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