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Josh Bekenstein Leverages His Time for Philanthropy

Josh Bekenstein is a living example of the philanthropic maxim to “give earlier rather than later.” Josh Bekenstein, who has been at Bain Capital since its inception and a managing director of the firm since 1986, says that the goal for him and his wife, Anita, “is to see if we can give it all away while we’re alive, and die broke.”

But as a working executive still in the midst of a career and raising five children, Bekenstein has developed a focused portfolio of philanthropy that doesn’t include a foundation to manage. Instead, building on his career of selecting the right companies in which to invest, Bekenstein relies on trusted friends and sources to bring great organizations to his attention. He also relies on New Profit, a venture philanthropy firm of which he is a board member, to conduct due diligence on high-potential social entrepreneurs.

The Bekensteins have “divided the world into three areas we thought we might be able to contribute in,” he says: inner-city poverty and education, cancer research, and giving back to the colleges “that had helped us” in terms of scholarships. Among the last is Yale University, Bekenstein’s alma mater, which he serves as a member of the Board of Advisors for the School of Management. And Bekenstein stresses the importance of great leaders and good governance for the success of any nonprofit, but especially young organizations. Great results require great management, he says, which means the often-suspect realm of “overhead” cannot be stinted.

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