You might not know how Rob Hale became a billionaire, but you almost certainly have heard that he and his wife, Karen, have been giving away hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Hales captured our charitable imagination starting a decade ago with the annual “Saving by Shaving” fund-raiser that started out as a dare. Rob Hale, the cofounder and CEO of Granite Telecommunications, could no longer bear the sight of an employee’s ZZ Top-style beard so he made him an offer. “If you shave that thing off,” he said, “I will give $10,000 to Dana-Farber.”
What happened next was extraordinary: Another employee offered to shave off his hair if Hale would donate $1,000 to cancer research. Soon, hundreds of employees wanted the same deal. Today, more than 10,000 people have participated, including Tom Brady and Governor Charlie Baker, raising $46 million toward fighting cancer.
Turns out that was just the beginning of the Hales’ head-turning philanthropy. Last year, Hale delivered the commencement speech at Quincy College and surprised each of the 490 graduates with $1,000. There was only one string attached: Keep $500 for yourself, and give the rest to a person or an organization in need.
Somehow, this year the Hales managed to outdo themselves. The Boston couple set out to donate $52 million in 2022, not in one lump sum but $1 million every week. The money would be a surprise to the charitable organization, many based in Massachusetts, and each would get a call from Rob or Karen about the gift. (No application was needed.)
Some of the grants went to familiar institutions such as Year Up and the Boys & Girls Club, but much of the money, starting at $100,000 but most for $1 million, was steered to a variety of smaller nonprofits, including Save the Manatee Club, Sunshine Farm Sanctuary, Safe House Project, and InnerCity Weightlifting.