February 10, 2013

A Big Donor Urges Fundraisers: Just Ask

Delores Barr Weaver is now one of the biggest philanthropists in the United States, but she got a slow start in giving because, she says, no charity thought to approach her.

Ms. Weaver, who last year pumped $50-million from her share of the sale of the Jacksonville Jaguars football team into the local community fund, was affluent long before she reached her 70s and got her windfall.

Her first significant gift was to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which she called with an idea to honor her mother, who died of the disease when Ms. Weaver was just 20.

Ms. Weaver says she would gladly have begun making smaller donations much earlier had she been asked.

“No one ever told me that whatever I could give would make a difference,” she says.

The belief that philanthropy can—and must—start small is key to Ms. Weaver’s philanthropic vision.

She is a big fan of matching grants and often requires that the groups she supports raise a certain percentage of their gifts from small donors.

She believes that appealing to more donors, even those of modest means, makes organizations stronger while widening the circle of philanthropists.

“Twenty-five dollars today has the potential to become much more tomorrow,” Ms. Weaver says.