The Accidental Philanthropists

Businessman with arms folded over pile of us currency/money
Put yourself in Becky Liebman's shoes. For 20 years she worked as a librarian. And then she found out she was a millionaire - many times over.

Her first reaction was…

"Yikes!" she laughed.

Her father's business had done better than she knew - a lot better. She got more money than she ever expected. Much more than she needed, CBS News correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports.

"It's so unsettling when you have so much and somebody else is struggling," Liebman said.

She knew she wanted to give most of it away. But it turned out to be harder than she thought. But did she know how to go about giving away millions of dollars?

"No," she said.

How did she learn?

"I found teachers," she said. "I found mentors."

Anne and Christopher Ellinger run an organization called Bolder Giving mostly for people like Becky Liebman: The suddenly super rich who want to give away large sums.

"So many people, even people who are really committed to giving, are giving just a fraction of their capacity," Anne Ellinger explained.

Philanthropists believe if everyone who gives would donate just 1 percent more it would mean an extra $100 billion a year in contributions.

A hundred billion a year?

"A year! It's not just saying once," Ellinger said. "It's saying year after year after year."

The Ellingers inherited roughly one million dollars and gave half of it away, to places like an arts center for troubled kids.

"If somebody asks us are we nuts to have given away so much money, I think to myself, we would have been nuts to just buy more stuff when we already had enough," Christopher Ellinger said.

More than 80 people have joined Bolder Giving around the country. They're not all super rich, but they are all very generous. The total amount they have given adds up to about $1 billion.

Becky Liebman has helped endow this youth center near where she lives and she's spending much more on a list of projects around the country.

"Many millions of dollars have come into my life," she said. "Many millions of dollars have gone out."

She's still looking for other causes - working hard at her role as accidental philanthropist who measures her worth not by how much money she's gotten, but by how much she's given.

  • Richard Schlesinger

    Correspondent, "48 Hours," "CBS Evening News"