Being rich is not as easy as it seems.
“I feel an inward-looking pressure so much of the time,” said Lauran Tuck, a graduate of Bensalem High School, who frets over the best ways to give away the fortune amassed by her husband, Justin, a former NFL player who made his money sacking quarterbacks.
The Tucks live the old aphorism that many moneyed people come to know: With great wealth comes great responsibility.
Often enviously dismissed as idle and Paris Hilton-frivolous, many affluent people confound that stereotype by quietly championing the causes of impoverished others — in some cases literally going to school to learn how to give away their dollars, which is what the Tucks did. Charity, people learn, isn’t simply a matter of opening the window and tossing out cash. Givers must learn aspects of managing grants, successfully investing funds, following tax rules, mastering intricate legalities, and countless other details.
A lot of the rich are raised to make a difference in the world, said Virginia Esposito, president of the National Center for Family Philanthropy in Washington, a nonprofit that helps the wealthy target their giving. “The No. 1 reason they all tell me is, ‘I want to give back.’”
Over all, giving is up in the United States. Total charitable donations in 2016 rose nearly 3 percent over 2015 levels to $390.05 billion, a record high, according to Giving USA 2017, a report by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. A lot of charitable dollars these days are going toward the environment, women’s issues, social services, and the arts, Esposito said.
Long the bastion of members of the World War II and Baby Boom generations who oversee the disbursement of family millions, American philanthropy is expanding to include the newly minted fortunes of millennials — roughly 20 to 35 — like the Tucks.
“Millennials have gotten started in philanthropy at a younger age than any previous generation,” Esposito said.
The story of giving in the early 21st century is more frequently being written by “young entrepreneurs still in their 30s, in positions to help while still building their wealth,” said Katherina Rosqueta, founding executive director of the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania, which helps donors do good works.
Not that long ago, Esposito said, the belief was that you gave away your money just before death. That model “has been turned on its head,” she said.
Laura Otten, executive director of the Nonprofit Center at LaSalle University’s School of Business, praised the millennials “for their passion for the world around them and desire to leave the world a better place.”
Asked by families when they should begin to impart the concept of noblesse oblige to their children, Esposito said she always replies, “The first time you hear a child say, ‘Mine.’”
Eileen Heisman, president and CEO of the National Philanthropic Trust in Jenkintown, a public charity that provides philanthropic expertise to donors and foundations, said she was guiding a Philadelphia family that believes in empowering even its Generation Z members, ages 5 to 19.
In one object lesson, the children were given $100 for every year they’ve been alive and told to do some good with it, Heisman said. Each had an older family mentor offering advice.
“A 9-year-old picked his aunt to help him, and he gave away $900 to local shelters to buy coats for children in poverty,” Heisman said.
It’s not unusual for parents in well-off families to tell their children that they must give a gift to others for every gift they receive for birthdays and holidays, Heisman said.
“These children are being put in a place where they have to notice those less fortunate,” she said.
For Lauran Tuck, the notion of helping people who struggle comes naturally.
The self-professed “solidly middle-class” daughter of a father who was a carpenter/welder and a mother who was vice president of sales at a medical technology company, Tuck, 33, saw selflessness in action from an early age.
Her father would help others work on their homes, while her mother would volunteer at St. Ephrem Catholic Church in Bensalem.
“The impulse to help absolutely came from my parents,” Tuck said. “They always gave whatever they had.”
After Tuck and her husband met at the University of Notre Dame, Justin Tuck capitalized on his 6-foot-5-inch, 265-pound frame and went to work for the New York Giants, where he won two Super Bowl titles as a defensive end. Known as a nice guy whose Alabama family also was charity-minded, Justin Tuck received endorsement contracts that augmented his wealth.
The Tucks have been married for nine years and live in Bergen County, N.J., with their sons, ages 7 and 4. They created Tuck’s R.U.S.H. for Literacy (Read, Understand, Succeed, Hope) in 2008. It addresses inequality in education and funds reading materials and other supplies for schools. Lauran Tuck said she immediately paid back her Bensalem alma mater, giving the high school a grant to acquire 3-D printers – “the things fancy private schools have.” Among numerous other causes, the philanthropy has underwritten summer programs for children in Philadelphia and Lancaster.
Dispensing money can be tricky work, and Lauran Tuck, who calls herself a perfectionist, quickly realized she needed help to ensure that every dollar had impact. So she got a master’s degree from Penn’s School of Social Policy and Practice just to become a better philanthropist. Tuck took special accounting classes, learned how to be more sensitive and precise in helping determine people’s needs, and made the charity into a more sophisticated donor-advised fund, which helped give it longevity.
And her husband, now retired from football at 34, is completing his M.B.A. at the Wharton School at Penn for the same reason.
“It feels good to give, but for my husband and I, it’s about looking forward, and hopefully inspiring our two sons to lead with kindness and compassion,” Tuck said.
Motivating the next generation is the key, said a local woman who is a fifth-generation philanthropist from a well-known family. She asked that her name not be used, she said, because she doesn’t have the permission of her cousins or the board members of her philanthropy to speak publicly.
In her early 40s, the woman lives with her family on the Main Line. She said she is already at work “transferring values” to her children, ages 5, 6, and 7, grooming them to be givers when their time comes, just as her grandmother had readied her.
“We help vulnerable families, and I want my children to understand there are things bigger than themselves,” the woman said.
That idea of providing money for the wider world to function more equitably is at the heart of charitable giving, said Lauran Tuck.
“We are millennials and still may encounter bumps on the road as we do this,” she said. “But it’s clear that our society works when philanthropy works well.”