Billionaire Invites Public Suggestions for His Job-Creation Charity Intentions

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September 28, 2011; Source: Washington Post | On September 23 Robert McCartney, a columnist at the Washington Post, announced through his column that billionaire philanthropist Bill Conway will give away $1 billion before he dies to be spent on creating jobs for the long-term unemployed. Five days later, McCartney reported that Conway, a co-founder of the investment firm the Carlyle Group, has gotten 700 responses to his announcement. They range from the serious to the self-serving to the not completely intelligible and extend from one or two lines to many pages.

The idea to concentrate on developing self-sustaining jobs for people in poverty came from Conway’s wife Joanne and immediately sparked his imagination. “More effective than giving away half my fortune before I die is finding a way to help people have a good-paying job,” says Conway. That would help not only the newly employed, but also their families and the rest of the community…If I’m going to create 1,000 jobs, or 10,000 jobs, or whatever the number is, wouldn’t we all be better off?” With jobs, he said, people “have a home; they go out to eat; they have a life.” There is still time to weigh in with your ideas. You can e-mail Conway at, and copy columnist Robert McCartney at

Conway is still looking for the “big ideas,” because he intends to give away most of his wealth. “I wake up a lot of mornings and I think, ‘Well, what I am supposed to do with this?’” I figure some of you might have ideas.—Ruth McCambridge

  • Dolores Wood

    During the depression, the jobs program was created to put people to work. We need something like that again to repair the crumbling infrastructures along our highways and in communities in most need. We need to repair and/or replace bridges, roads and sidewalks. Also,there has been a housing glut. Rather than build more structures, construction workers should be retrained to deconstruct and recycle used materials. Older building should be remodeled and/or restored using green technology to heat and cool them. This would make homes more affordable.

  • Sharon Charters

    My suggestion would be to invest in on-site child care centres. A partnership with key businesses to provide high quality, free or low-cost child care, would not only reduce a significant barrier to people getting jobs, it would also reduce the poverty rate of the working poor.

  • Shelley Hartmann

    It is nice to know that private citizens are trying to help. I am in an isolated rural nonprofit. We act as economic development, unemployment and training, small business advocate and coach.
    To survive we bid on contracts with the local army base, they are partnered with us to bring diversity to the area in types of jobs that can co-locate on our 250 sq mile base.

    Rural economic development is hard enough in good times. Rural nonprofits have a very small pool of foundations who will our efforts to destroy poverty and povertymindedness. We are always too small or our populations are too small it is very frustrating. Our long term, generational poverty level must be broken. The many challenges can’t be solved here, but a creative multi pronged approach is vital.

    Banks don’t lend here, even alternative lenders seldom try. Generally we can meet certain criteria on grants but don’t apply because of match requirements. The reimbursement nature of grants means if the nonprofit is small, with small or no cash flow they cannot afford to apply.

    There is need for a pool of match dollars, or a way to remain solvent, when your granting agency delays in reimbursements we are running on credit cards and it becomes a viscous cycle. New grants cannot be used to deal with past year crises, donations in frontier towns like ours with less than 3500 people, with a welfare level of 55 to60 % of the households don’t glean much, and frankly you hate to ask knowing how tough tines are.

    In our office we have the desire to develop a foundation with a permanent fund with interest enough to assist small start ups, fund our operations and use as incentive money for industry attraction.

    I begged our former governor to use a small portion of the stimulus funds to set up 10-20 million dollar revolving loan funds in each development authority. This would have overcome lack of match for grants, lack of incentives to attract or compete for industry, and could supplement the state grants for operations. It would have used less than 3%. Of the stimulus funding but several of us would have had immediate job creation because projects would have self funded. The revolving nature of the funds theoretically would have made us self sustaining community development agencies.

    It seemed like a way to use windfall dollars to solve long term funding issues in rural non profits and develop a sustainable Means of tackling poverty here at the grassroots. Sort of like a mini Alaska permanent Fund for each rural office. Of course our voices were drowned our by more politically connected groups.

    I look forward to seeing how your efforts turn out, thanks for thinking about America and caring enough to put your money where your mouth is so few really do.

  • Shelley Hartmann

    Third they perhaps my ideas won’t be erased by the system again.

    To tackle poverty in a grassroots fashion I suggested that our governor use a small percentage of the stimulus money to establish a revolving loan fund for each development authority. A permanent fund of sorts large enough to run operations from the interest. It would have given our nonprofit stability and an edge when competing for new industry attraction. I asked for a 20 million revolving loan fund for the purposes of investing in job creating entities, assisting unbankable but promising small business, and creative job creation such as organizing an artists coop, catalog etc and helping our citizens learn how to be self employed.

    It would have solved several long term challenges for us.
    1. A pool of funds to match grants we could not app,y for.
    2. Cash flow because grants are reimbursement grants, and you have to spend money to get the grant dollars.
    3. A permanent fund to establish a local foundation to encourage transfer of wealth to this community ity foundation.
    4. Sustainability that would ensure activities continue beyond the current faltering grant systems
    5. Allow our multi pronged rural nonprofit concentrate on our MISSION, not survival of the organization.

    We still seek this sort of sustainability.