Ben Franklin’s Grave / David Amsler

November 16, 2016; Philadelphia Inquirer

Jon Bon Jovi and Benjamin Franklin are rarely mentioned in the same sentence, but it’s happening this week. Bob Jovi and his wife Dorothea heard about a page set up to raise $10,000 toward the cost of repairing the gravestone marking the last resting place of Franklin and his wife Deborah. Having heard that the crowdfunding campaign was halfway to its goal, they pledged the remaining half. The campaign was reported on Wednesday to be over $12,000. The Christ Church Preservation Trust raised $66,000 toward the project before the online appeal was launched.

The marble gravestone has been damaged over the more than 200 years since Franklin’s death because many people honor his memory by tossing pennies onto the flat marble slab. Why? Franklin is famous for the saying, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” (Technically, he didn’t say that exactly, but the quote was modified over time to make it relevant to contemporary ears.) The pennies have always been regarded as appropriate tribute; no mention is made of Christ Church or the associated Preservation Trust objecting to the practice.

No specific motivation for the gift was mentioned, but the Bon Jovis hail from nearby New Jersey. Bon Jovi was also a former owner of the Philadelphia Soul arena football team.

This appears to be a simple story of a generous gift without restrictions other than those set by the charity itself, the success of online appeals as a component of charitable fundraising, and the benefits of low-key star power to gain attention for a cause not usually associated with rock & roll. It also represents a very modern digital fundraising effort taken on by what one would assume to be a stodgy, traditional faith-based local nonprofit engaged in preserving tangible history. With so much in the philanthropic world that is so complex and nuanced, the simplicity of this initiative is beautiful.—Michael Wyland