Doers to Donors: Maureen and Kelly Hackett Offer Passionate Defense of Capitalism

Philanthropy Roundtable believes a strong private sector, supported by the free enterprise system, creates the wealth that makes philanthropy possible, enabling charitable organizations to solve social problems and improve the lives of countless individuals. However, some of the nation’s most powerful philanthropic institutions have committed nearly $500 million over the next five years to “remake capitalism,” which will require greater government intervention in the private sector and could result in less overall charitable giving

In a recent episode of the Roundtable’s interview series, “Doers to Donors,” Maureen and Kelly Hackett of the Hackett Family Foundation offered a pointed response to those who want to dismantle our economic system – a system that has enabled their family’s foundation to provide critical support to mental health, cancer research and faith-based education institutions, among others. 

Maureen and Jim Hackett met as freshmen in high school, and went on to raise four children together, building a life of purpose and success. Jim Hackett earned his MBA from Harvard University and led firms in the oil and gas industry before taking on leadership roles in private equity. Maureen Hackett served as “CEO of the Hackett family” and took charge of their philanthropic work.

During a recent episode of “Doers to Donors,” Philanthropy Roundtable President and CEO Elise Westhoff asked Maureen Hackett how she would respond to critics of capitalism who want to see the economic system that brought prosperity to her family and help to the beneficiaries of their foundation dismantled.

“[The critics] just don’t have the facts. [They] don’t see the tremendous impact capitalism can have on the world,” Hackett said. “Not just on tchotchkes and cars and rockets and these types of things, [but on] education and research and policy institutes and opportunities for politicians to do the right thing. That’s what capitalism is all about.”

Maureen Hackett also discussed the role capitalism played in building the United States, noting the contributions of the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts, and other early industrialists who became philanthropists.

“Those were visionaries that wanted to see the world a better place,” she said. “We still have capitalists that have those visions and those dreams for this country and this world.”

Maureen Hackett’s daughter, Kelly Hackett, who is a leading voice for next-generation philanthropy, added it is “nonsensical to think anything would get done without capitalism.” She also called it “short-sighted” for capitalism’s critics to call for dismantling the system over the issue of income disparity.

“It would be great if we could do something about wealth disparity. [But] I don’t think necessarily going after capitalists is the way to go,” she said. “I think there are a lot of other things that we can do to fix a lot of the issues that we have with our fiscal system that don’t … target those who know how to make money by being visionaries.”

Maureen Hackett said there is something else critics miss when they attack capitalists: the hard work it takes to succeed in the free enterprise system – and the fulfillment that comes from charitable giving.

“A lot of blood, sweat and tears,” she said. “And as a result, a great deal of joy in the … ability to be philanthropic.”

Click to watch the full “Doers to Donors” episode featuring Maureen and Kelly Hackett and listen to the podcast on Apple, Google, and Spotify.

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