Spanx Founder Gives Half Her Fortune To Charity
Sara Blakely is the first female billionaire to join The Giving Pledge, a call to action from Warren Buffet, and Bill and Melinda Gates to the nation's billionaires to give half their net worth to charity. Just by reading the first paragraphs of her Giving Pledge letter, it seems that this is something Blakely's been waiting for her whole life.
"Since I was a little girl," she says, "I have always known I would help women." She also wrote she is grateful to have been born a woman in the United States. "I never lose sight that I was born in the right country at the right time, and that there are millions of women around the world who are not dealt the same deck of cards... They are not given the same chance I had to create my own success and follow my dreams. It is for those women that I make this pledge."
According to CNN, Blakely founded Spanx in 2000 and is still 100% owned by her. CBS reported that last year, the company was valued at $1 billion, and is estimated to have annual sales of $250 million.
In her letter, Blakely writes about her company's continual in-house practice of philanthropy. "We have a rotating philanthropy board made up of employees," she wrote. Each board is allocated a portion of money and employees volunteer their time to research which charity should receive it. Once a decision has been reached, they make a surprise visit to the organization with a check and "witness the tears firsthand." Blakely and her staff have made it so other female entrepreneurs can promote their products in in their catalog free of charge, sent women to college, built homes, and even joined in a dance flash mob to end violence against women. At first glance, one might wonder how Spanx does so well while focusing so much energy on charity--energy that could be spent exclusively on making Spanx more successful. The key to success, however, seems to be more rooted in giving, and serving others.
Professor Adam Grant is the youngest tenured and highest-rated professor at The Wharton School, the United States' oldest business school. He's published more papers in top-tier journals than most of his colleagues that have won lifetime achievement awards, according to NYTimes Magazine. He teaches organizational psychology, and dedicates his time to unpacking his own success to help people become efficient and productive enough to reach their goals. He, like Blakely, makes an effort to help those who need it.
Adam Grant, via Give and Take
He told NYTimes Staff Writer, Susan Dominus, the following:
"The greatest untapped source of motivation, he argues, is a sense of service to others; focusing on the contribution of our work to other people’s lives has the potential to make us more productive than thinking about helping ourselves."
In an interview with CBS News, Blakely talked about the importance of practicing philanthropy as part of a business plan. "You don't have to make all your money, sell it, then become philanthropic," she said. "Engage your company." Engagement in a continual practice of giving seems to be the key to not only success, but also to the self-fulfillment of one's work. Both Blakely's and Grant's success proves that giving is not a one way street, and that it is an investment in others that we won't regret.