Random Reminiscences of Men and Events, by John D. Rockefeller is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. Chapter VII : THE BENEVOLENT TRUSTS
To return to the subject of the Benevolent Trusts, which is a name for corporations to manage the business side of benefactions. The idea needs, and to be successful must have, the help of men who have been trained along practical lines. The best men of business should be attracted by its possibilities for good. When it is eventually worked out, as it will be in some form, and probably in a better one than we can now forecast, how worthy it will be of the efforts of our ablest men!
We shall have the best charities supported generously and adequately, managed with scientific efficiency by the ablest men, who will gladly he held strictly accountable to the donors of the money, not only for the correct financing of the funds, but for the intelligent and effective use of every penny. To-day the whole machinery of benevolence is conducted upon more or less haphazard principles. Good men and women are wearing out their lives to raise money to sustain institutions which are conducted by more less or unskilled methods. This is a tremendous waste of our best material.
We cannot afford to have great souls who are capable of doing the most effective work slaving to raise the money. That should be a business man's task, and he should be supreme in managing the machinery of the expenses. The teachers, the workers, and the inspired leaders of the people should be relieved of these pressing and belittling money cares. They have more than enough to do in tilling their tremendous and never fully occupied field, and they should be free from any care which might in any wise divert them from that work.
When these Benevolent Trusts come into active being, such organizations on broad lines will be sure to attract the brains of the best men we have in our commercial affairs, as great business opportunities attract them now. Our successful business men as a class, and the exceptions only prove the truth of the assertion, have a high standard of honour. I have sometimes been tempted to say that our clergymen could gain by knowing the essentials of business life better. The closer association with men of affairs would, I think, benefit both classes.
People who have had much to do with ministers and those who hold confidential positions in our churches have at times had surprising experiences in meeting what is sometimes practised in the way of ecclesiastical business, because these good men have had so little of business training in the work-a-day world.
The whole system of proper relations, whether it be in commerce, or in the Church, or in the sciences, rests on honour. Able business men seek to confine their dealings to people who tell the truth and keep their promises; and the representatives of the Church, who are often prone to attack business men as a type of what is selfish and mean, have some great lessons to learn, and they will gladly learn them as these two types of workers grow closer together.
The Benevolent Trusts, when they come, will raise these standards; they will look the facts in the face; they will applaud and sustain the effective workers and institutions; and they will uplift the intelligent standard of good work in helping all the people chiefly to help themselves. There are already signs that these combinations are coming, and coming quickly, and in the directorates of these trusts you will eventually find the flower of our American manhood, the men who not only know how to make money, but who accept the great responsibility of administering it wisely.
A few years ago, on the occasion of the decennial anniversary of the University of Chicago, I was attending a university dinner, and having been asked to speak I had jotted down a few notes.
When the time arrived to stand up and face these guests—men of worth and position—my notes meant nothing to me. As I thought of the latent power of good that rested with these rich and influential people I was greatly affected. I threw down my notes and started to plead for my Benevolent Trust plan.
"You men," I said, "are always looking forward to do something for good causes. I know how very busy you are. You work in a treadmill from which you see no escape. I can easily understand that you feel that it is beyond your present power carefully to study the needs of humanity, and that you wait to give until you have considered many things and decided upon some course of action.
Now, why not do with what you can give to others as you do with what you want to keep for yourself and your children: Put it into a Trust? You would not place a fortune for your children in the hands of an inexperienced person, no matter how good he might be. Let us be as careful with the money we would spend for the benefit of others as if we were laying it aside for our own family's future use. Directors carry on these affairs in your behalf. Let us erect a foundation, a Trust, and engage directors who will make it a life work to manage, with our personal coöperation, this business of benevolence properly and effectively. And I beg of you, attend to it now, don't wait."
I confess I felt most strongly on the subject, and I feel so now.
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This book is part of the public domain. John D. Rockefeller. (2005). Random Reminiscences of Men and Events. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved October 2022 from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/17090/17090-h/17090-h.htm
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