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Paul Newman’s Gifts to Philanthropy

Much has been written in the past few days about the philanthropy of Paul Newman, the actor who died on Friday at age 83. Michael Seltzer, a consultant to charities and foundations, writing on the PhilanTopic blog, says Mr. Newman should be remembered as the pioneer of a specific kind of giving: “consumer philanthropy.”

Newman’s Own, the company Mr. Newman and his neighbor, A.E. Hotchner ,started 28 years ago, helped “prove that the generosity of Americans does not stop when they go shopping,” says Mr. Seltzer.

The two men created the company just before Christmas of 1980, when they stocked the shelves of a local store with Mr. Newman’s homemade salad dressing. By the end of the 1990s, Mr. Newman’s dressing had annual retail sales of $33.5-million, making it the eighth-biggest seller in the salad-dressing market. By 2008, the Newman’s Own Foundation had given more than $250-million for charities.

Mr. Seltzer writes that Mr. Newman was initially wary of promoting the products with his face and name.

When someone first suggested Mr. Newman put his face on salad-dressing bottles, he said he was bothered by what he called “noisy philanthropy.” It was only after a former food executive joined the company that its packaging included more-prominent mentions that all the proceeds were donated to charities.

Mr. Newman also sought to raise the level of giving among Fortune 500 companies, creating in the mid-1990s the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy.

What do you see as Mr. Newman’s contributions to philanthropy?

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