Richer than a millionaire—a conversation with a Vanguard Charitable donor

Jan 08, 2019

Our donors are doing incredible work across the country and the globe. From time to time, we're fortunate to speak in-depth with donors about what drives them. I'm happy to present an interview with Vanguard Charitable donor William D. Danko, Ph.D., co-author of The Millionaire Next Door and Richer Than A Millionaire ~A Pathway to True Prosperity.


For more information about the authors and their book, please visit


Q: What inspired your book  Richer Than A Millionaire ~A Pathway To True Prosperity?


A: My colleague Dr. Richard Van Ness and I have had many discussions about the legacy we hoped to leave our families. Combined with our experience in the college classroom, we recognized that our students needed guidance to do the "right thing," as well. Clearly a career that provided income was important, but happiness could not be ignored.


To this end, the first four chapters of our book cover material wealth information. The next three focus on happiness, how to reach true prosperity and whether building a dynasty is even possible. Finally, we reflect on lessons learned, giving guidance that we hope will be embraced by all.


Q: How would you encourage people to think about their charitable endeavors?


A: We often think about giving money as the only successful way to be charitable. However, giving time to others also can be rewarding. In my case, my wife and I have endowed three college scholarships named after our parents and grandparents. Yearly recipients are selected based on how they have given their most precious resource―time―to others. Even if one lacks money, one can always give and serve others by volunteering time. With our scholarships, half of the award defrays tuition, and the recipient gets to donate the other half to a charity―in their name―that focuses on the hungry and homeless.


Q: Through your research on your book, what did you find to be the strongest motivators for giving?


A: This may sound esoteric, but the Greek word metanoia―a transformative change of heart―is by far the strongest motivator. Many times people give because it is expected; it is socially required. The strongest motivator tugs at the heart.


Q: We have been exploring the idea of "The Giver's Glow." In your research, what mental or physical health benefits may be enjoyed after giving to charity?


A: We have good evidence that "The Giver's Glow" is important, and that it is something that can be achieved. On at least three measures through our survey research, we show that those who practice the Golden Rule, volunteer time, and give money to charity are significantly happier than those who don't do these things. This is what we mean by true prosperity.


Q: How does a donor-advised fund help you ensure assets are reaching well-deserving charities?


A: It is distressing to think that a favorite charity can be in danger. But it does happen. This is where good stewardship comes into play. Quite frankly, I'm glad to have the resources of Vanguard Charitable working for me, as they do the necessary due diligence to vet the intended charities I want to support.


Q: What are some of the benefits you’ve enjoyed with a donor-advised fund?


A: There are several advantages that I find attractive about a donor-advised fund. They all fall into the category called "ease of use." Funding the account with appreciated equities is straightforward, and avoids a capital gains tax. Moreover, one enjoys a charitable tax deduction on the donation. In the meantime, Vanguard Charitable takes care of the details in vetting specified charitable targets as the funds are parceled out. What could be easier than putting trust into a qualified entity that can do all this?


Q: Vanguard Charitable believes that philanthropists should be strategic in their giving. Would you agree, and how does a donor develop and stick to a plan?


A: Yes. In our book, Richer Than A Millionaire ~A Pathway To True Prosperity, we emphasize the need to clarify personal values. Only when you understand why you are accumulating wealth, can you know how to allocate it. We show through empirical analysis that those who accumulate and give are happier than those who believe they can never have enough for themselves. Giving is the key to true prosperity.


We would like to thank Dr. Danko for his time and for sharing his thoughts and experiences surrounding philanthropy.

Richer than a millionaire—a conversation with a Vanguard Charitable donor
Richer than a millionaire—a conversation with a Vanguard Charitable donor
Published Date
Richer than a millionaire—a conversation with a Vanguard Charitable donor
Richer than a millionaire—a conversation with a Vanguard Charitable donor

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