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Houston Couple’s $1 Million Gift Pushes United Way Philanthropy to New Level in Bayou City

Raising the Bar to Inspire an Even More Generous Gifting Campaign

BY // 02.28.20
photography Quy Tran

Not since Bill Gates and Warren Buffet founded The Giving Pledge has philanthropy enjoyed such a boost as the recent uptick in giving levels announced by the United Way of Greater Houston at its annual Alexis de Toqueville Society dinner. Those committing $1 million join the elite giving level of Luminary.

First to the table with the seven-figure contribution are Nancy and Rich Kinder, who are ranked No. 67 on Forbes list of billionaires and widely recognized as the city’s most generous philanthropists.

When their gift from The Kinder Foundation was announced in mid-January both the couple and United Way president and CEO Anna Babin expressed their hope that the Luminary giving level will inspire others to join them and to give generously during the current 2019-20 campaign.

“We know that 40 percent of our neighbors in this community – over 800,000 households — are struggling every day just to make ends meet. It is an issue we must all address and generous donors like Rich and Nancy Kinder are leading the way by investing in this community so that more families can thrive,” Babin said in a statement. “We created the name Luminary because it describes how the Kinders are lighting the path to a better future for others through their support of United Way.”

The $1 million gift was officially announced at the de Toqueville Society appreciation dinner held in the soaring lobby of the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. More than 300 society members, those who personally commit $10,000 each year to the United Way, gathered for the dinner.

The local United Way boasts 650 society members, who together contributed $16 million to fuel United Way’s work in the community, a figure that is likely to grow in the final months of United Way’s community campaign.

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The local office reports that the new giving level has been “very well-received and sparked great conversations about the impact on United Way’s work.” However, it is too early in the discussion stage to confirm if there are donors arranging a gift at this level.

The evening also served as a swan song for Babin, who is retiring at the end of March after 14 years of serving the nonprofit. The salute included a special toast and performance of  “I Look to You,” performed by Grammy-nominated Houston artist Ashley Tamar Davis.

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