SEATTLE — Everyone has heard of Harry Potter. Perhaps lesser known is the blockbuster book series’ author J.K. Rowling’s charitable donations. The famed writer, once worth an estimated $1 billion thanks to the Harry Potter franchise, has given away about 16 percent of her net worth, or $160 million.
She has contributed to several causes including ones that fight illiteracy, multiple sclerosis and human exploitation. J.K. Rowling’s charitable donations is a good model for up-and-coming philanthropists. Here are five lessons to be gained from following her example:
1. Poverty is a real problem
Rowling, who lived on welfare until 1999, has first-hand experience with poverty and does not romanticize. During her 2008 commencement speech at Harvard University she said that it “is not an ennobling experience. Poverty entails fear and stress and sometimes depression. It means a thousand petty humiliations and hardship.”
Nearly half of the world’s population grapples with poverty. Of that half, 1.3 billion live on less than $1.25 a day, reports DoSomething.org.
2. No donation is too small
The average household contributes $2,974 annually to charity, as reported by the National Philanthropic Trust, but many people cannot afford that much. Fortunately for both givers and receivers, a $120 contribution will give a village a goat and $50 will purchase enough building materials for a family to have a safe, well-structured home.
3. Choose a charity with special meaning
With so many amazing and successful nonprofits to choose from, philanthropy can be a daunting concept. The best way is to choose projects that share personal meaning or your values.
Being one of the wealthiest women in England, Rowling never forgot her humble roots nor her trials as a single mother. Since her rise to fame, she has invested significant time and money into Gingerbread, a 95-year old organization that provides a helpline and online advice for struggling single-parent families. Rowling also donates to charities that promote literacy among children.
4. Global poverty can be fought in the workplace
Rowling wrote Harry Potter companion books specifically to reduce global poverty. Book sales generated almost $30 million for her organization Lumos, which provides support and rights for institutionalized children.
The workplace provides many opportunities to host charitable events, such as dessert auctions, raffles, marathons and company theme dinners. According to Money Crashers, contributing to a charitable corporate cause boosts company morale and employee performance.
5. Reducing global poverty is a universal responsibility
One of the largest barriers to ending global poverty is the detachment countries feel toward suffering that occurs across borders and overseas. Many would-be charitable patrons argue that each nation bears sole responsibility for the welfare of its citizens. But reducing global poverty benefits all countries and people by improving economies, increasing national security and creating a universal feeling of accomplishment and pride.
J.K. Rowling’s charitable donations have helped millions globally, but it takes more than one person to change the world. In an interview with Mother Nature Network, Rowling said, “You have a moral responsibility when you’ve been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently.”