Legacy of Giving

To honor the vision and principles of its founder, philanthropist Paul Newman, the organization pledges to donate $30 million to charitable organizations this year—$1 million for each of the years it’s been doing good.

With a monumental $30 million goal, it’s surprising to recall the organization’s humble beginning. Paul Newman—actor, entrepreneur, veteran, activist, race car driver, philanthropist, the list goes on—started what would become Newman’s Own with a batch of salad dressing prepped in the basement of his Westport home. The bottles were Christmas gifts. And they were good—good enough to become a business that gives globally. When Newman founded Newman’s Own, the focus was on a handful of high-quality food products. It’s expanded into more than a hundred choices, everything from salsa to frozen pizza. Yet one key to the business remains unchanged. When Newman established the company, he wanted to donate profits and royalties to charity—a practice that remains.

Bob Forrester—president and CEO of Newman’s Own Foundation and chairman and CEO of Newman’s Own, Inc.—speaks fondly of his personal friend, Paul. He begins by saying that Newman was a natural businessman but wanted to “extend himself to those people who had been less fortunate than he had been.”   Since its inception, the foundation has supported charities close to Newman’s home of Westport (and where the original Newman’s Own offices still stand) and across the world. While it would be easy for the company to rest on its laurels, they relish in the $30 million challenge—which is the largest amount that they’ve given in any single year.

“You can never, ever fulfill the needs that are out there,” Forrester says. “So how do we remain open and generous but at the same time be smart and focused?”

He explains that the foundation decided to home in on four core areas of special need: encouraging philanthropy, children with life-limiting conditions, nutrition, and empowerment. “These are areas that Paul Newman focused on, and we’re continuing his legacy,” Forrester says.

These areas of focus aren’t just a way to honor the foundation’s past: They responded to especially critical needs of today. Nutrition, for example, encompasses fitness and healthy school-breakfast programs. “These are also areas where we feel we can make a difference and have significant impact,” Forrester explains.

The foundation has never been in the business of just writing checks. Instead, it works closely with organizations, helping them maintain sustainable operations. Among the best-known is the SeriousFun Network, a collection of worldwide camps that provide a fun haven for children with life-limiting ailments. “There’s no doubt that these camps were really closest to his heart, and he really loved being with the children,” Forrester says. “Paul used to visit the camps when he needed a boost, and it would always lift his spirits.”

The foundation supports, on average, 750 organizations a year. The Safe Water campaign strives “to bring safe drinking water to people totally at the bottom of the pyramid in terms of economic wherewithal,” says Forrester, who founded the organization with Newman and other businesspeople. The organization is currently operating in poverty-stricken locations such as Ghana and India.

Thirty years strong—and healthy roots and off-shoots—Newman’s Own, Inc., and the Newman’s Own Foundation keep the Newman family legacy burning bright.

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