Swanee Hunt, daughter of Texas oil billionaire H.L. Hunt, didn’t wait for an inheritance to become an active philanthropist. By her early-30s, in fact, she was giving away half her $70,000 annual income as a Presbyterian pastor to causes, such as mental health, in her hometowns of Denver and Dallas. Since then, Hunt’s philanthropic mission has extended globally. Today, Hunt’s focus is on achieving global gender parity as a means to end war, break political gridlock, alleviate poverty and stop global sex trafficking.
Hunt’s current aim of promoting the role of women as peacemakers was inspired by her experience as U.S. ambassador to Austria during the brutal civil war in the former Yugoslavia. She tells how she met a Bosnian widow, who in the aftermath of a massacre that killed her sons, said of Serbian women: “'We are all mothers.’” It was, Hunt says, “a turning point in my life. That kind of reaching across and seeing the person on the other side, not the enemy on the other side, that kind of humanizing the other – that’s what will give us a different world.”
And the strategies she’s embraced to move towards realizing these goals have been equally bold and ambitious. For example, she and her sister, Helen, launched Women Moving Millions, an outreach to women able to donate more than $1 million to causes related to women and girls. Despite the stock market’s plunge, from 2007 through 2009 the initiative raised over $170 million.
Hunt’s foundation, Hunt Alternatives Fund, has committed $130 million to supporting these causes and she plans to spend down the Fund’s endowment over the next 10 years. But, Hunt says that her expectations for seeing the results of her philanthropy during her lifetime are in check. “If my goal is bold enough and my vision far out enough, I will never see the success,” says Hunt. And perhaps it's the influence of her parents that makes her comfortable with that. Watching her father dig 99 dry oil wells before hitting a gusher and absorbing her mother’s grace of “it’s OK” -- “Those two were a powerful combination of ‘just go out and try.’”