Bernie Marcus, Co-Founder of The Home Depot talks about one of his core beliefs, philanthropy, something he says he has dedicated his life to after leaving his organization. Growing up in a Jewish household, he references the Hebrew word “Tzedakah” which means giving back, a word that was used often in his upbringing. Growing up with little money, Marcus explains would give back to the community by volunteering his time, instead of giving monetary donations. He talks about applying the lessons he learned running The Home Depot to his approach on philanthropy; by looking at budget, projections, management, and the products and services offered. Like clients, Marcus says he doesn’t just write checks, but holds who he donates to accountable, and if they don’t reach proposed goals, then he will not provide support in the future. This approach he says motivates charitable organizations to strive for success, and continues to promote the power of effectiveness when working with not-for-profit organizations.
Marcus encourages other CEOs to be socially responsible citizens and support charities that reflect their values and what is important to them. Other executives may assign individuals to distribute their donations across various organizations but Marcus prefers to know where his money is going, and how it will affect change in the world. In 1988, he created The Marcus Foundation, focusing on Jewish causes, medical research, free enterprise, and the community. He also funded and founded The Marcus Autism Center, a center of excellence for the provision of comprehensive services for children who are affected by autism. Furthermore, in 2005, Marcus donated $250M million for the build of the Atlanta Aquarium, which has become the largest in the world. A year later, Marcus saw a women that worked for him continue to struggle with caring for her child, and had difficulty getting him medical care and doctors providing a proper diagnosis. Over time, it was confirmed that he was autistic, and Marcus took it upon himself to help start and fund Autism Speaks, a foundation started by Bob and Susan Wright that has grown into North America’s largest autism science, awareness and advocacy organization, dedicating to funding research into the causes, preventions, treatments and a cure for autism.
Bernie Marcus continues to help and fund causes that reflect his personal values and encourages other CEOs to do the same. Watch our latest episode with The Home Depot Co-Founder now!