Hilton and philanthropy

If Paris Hilton still remembers the stuff she said about giving something back to society (c'mon now, stop laughing), a good place to start might be her family's own foundation. Steven M. Hilton, president and CEO of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation (he's third generation), sounds like an earnest guy wanting to build up the family's philanthropic side. The Hilton Foundation has more than $1 billion in assets - that's 58th on the list of top 100 U.S. foundations). Six Hiltons Steve, his father Barron, his uncle Eric, his brother William, his sister Hawley, and his cousin Conrad are on the board (no mention of Paris or her parents). He recently spoke to the Philanthropy News Digest:

PND: You've been involved in philanthropy for almost twenty-five years. How have you seen the field change during that time?

SH: One of the big changes is the significant shift to venture philanthropy and the blurring of the lines between nonprofits and for-profits. Also, giving is more hip now. When I first started, somebody might ask me, "What do you do?" and I'd tell them I worked at a private foundation. "Oh, you're in construction?" "No," I'd say, "I give money to charity." There'd be a pause, and then, "You don't do that full time, do you?" But now everybody is aware of high-profile philanthropists/activists like Bono, Oprah Winfrey, Angelina Jolie, and Bill and Melinda Gates. As for other changes, when I first started working at the Hilton Foundation, most of the larger foundations had large staffs and different departments such as health, education, and arts, and they would give relatively smaller grants in relationship to their size. Today, more of these foundations are giving significantly larger grants and spreading the commitment out over multiple years.

PND: Of the twenty-three members of your family, twelve are fourth generation. Are they ready to step up to the plate as philanthropists?

SH: In April, we launched a program called Generations in Giving to provide the younger generation of Hiltons with both discretionary and matching funds to use for their own philanthropy. I thought it was an important initiative and would honor the wonderful philanthropic legacy Conrad Hilton created and that my father is continuing he has said he also intends to leave his estate to the foundation. This legacy of generosity from both my father and my grandfather has given me a great sense of joy by allowing me to help others. I want to encourage that spirit in other family members. The other reason it's important is because of our policy that requires a majority of the foundation's board to be comprised of Hilton family members. I feel a great responsibility to ensure that those who follow me and my generation in leading this foundation are prepared to take on what I see as both an opportunity and a privilege and to do it in a way that adds value to what we've already been able to accomplish.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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