Unheralded Giving

circa 1962:  Promotional headshot portrait of American comedian and talk show host Johnny Carson, for the talk show 'The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. He is wearing a striped blazer. Carson began his thirty-year run as host of the late-night series in 1962.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

We learned last week that Johnny Carson directed over $150 million from his estate to his foundation. The transfer was only discovered through research by The Smoking Gun. The gifts of securities and royalties were never announced by Carson or those affiliated with him or his foundation.

In the Jewish tradition, based on Maimonides’ degrees of charity, anonymous giving is among the most admired. A few years subsequent to Maimonides, in 2009, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported increased anonymous giving.

This reminds me of the high calling of quiet, unheralded giving. How refreshing and admirable it is to see a 9-figure unannounced donation. There are surely others that never get exposed and they are equally worthy of respect. I know there are many much smaller anonymous gifts and I hope you have been privileged to work on a couple of them.

Carson’s giving isn’t strictly anonymous, because the John W. Carson Foundation is (I’m guessing) widely known to be his, and that’s where the grants to charities come from. But his silent funding of his foundation with an enormous gift reminds me how revered the anonymous donor is.

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