Rob Hale is funding endowments for grassroots nonprofit groups, the latest twist in billionaire philanthropy.
Rob Hale and his wife Karen have a reputation in New England for giving big. Hale, who is worth an estimated $5 billion from his controlling stake in Granite Telecommunications, has written checks in the tens of millions of dollars to prominent institutions like Boston Children’s Hospital, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and his alma mater, Connecticut College.
This year, the couple has a different goal: to give exactly $52 million to at least 52 different nonprofit groups–or, roughly $1 million per week. The majority of these gifts are going towards establishing endowments at grassroots organizations.
Charity endowments, like those controlled by universities, are pots of money, typically invested in stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Nonprofits with endowments can tap a portion of these funds–typically 5% per year–to finance new initiatives, cover payroll and keep the lights on.
The goal of charity endowments is to bring “financial clarity” to smaller charities, says Hale. “These are great, impactful organizations but they’re on a wing and a prayer. They have no financial certainty.”
Financial security is something Hale knows well. His first company, Network Plus, which he founded in 1990, went bankrupt during the Dot Com crash. His second company, Granite, thrived wholesaling retailers’ many landlines, but now must adapt as phone systems migrate online.