James Dondero: The Business of Giving

Business 23 January, 2019

Texas entrepreneur James Dondero does more than merely give money to charity; he also lends his considerable business experience and organizational vision to the groups he supports. As a result, his philanthropy is as successful as his business ventures and has had a positive impact on many aspects of life in the Dallas community.

James Dondero is the president and co-founder of Highland Capital Management, and he’s been a Dallas resident since 1994. Since the beginnings of Highland Capital Management, he’s made it his mission to not only do good but to also do well. The philanthropic branch of his Highland Capital Management is Highland Foundation, Inc., and it has assisted local organizations including the Dallas Zoo, the Family Place, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science as well as many others.

Dondero believes that local nonprofits should be unified in their efforts because it’s all about helping the larger community. Consequently, with the help of nonprofit specialist Linda Owen, Highland reaches out to other groups to help form long and lasting giving relationships.

Helping Young People Learn About Space

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is a place for children to learn about science, technology, engineering and math in a fun and interactive way. Exhibits are hands-on and geared for young people, although adults often enjoy them as well.

Not only does the museum feature 11 permanent galleries, it also has traveling exhibits, and one of these, “Journey to Space,” which covered mankind’s exploration of the cosmos, was backed by Dondero. Visitors were able to see how spacesuit and spaceship technologies have evolved since the early days of space exploration and could also check-out different sites inside a model of the International Space Station.

The exhibit captured the essence of the creativity and technological vision that have been hallmarks of the space effort in the United States in general and Texas in particular since NASA was established in the Twentieth Century. Dondero said that he was proud to help the next generation of scientists learn about space exploration and the math and science at its core.

The Hippo Habitat at The Dallas Zoo

Recently, the Dallas Zoo wanted to make an upgrade to its hippo exhibit, and Dondero came through with a one million dollar gift. Because of it and other donations from Dondero and others, the zoo was able to build a state-of-the-art area for visitors to learn about and enjoy the zoo’s hippos, and they named the Highland Hippo Hut, a permanent space, in recognition of his contributions.

Because of their complex needs and enormous size, creating a permanent environment for hippos is challenging, and Dallas Zoo has stated that they could not have completed their Hippo Habitat without the generous help of Dondero and other philanthropists.

How Philanthropy Helps Society

Both the space exhibit and the Hippo Habitat show how philanthropy can create a better overall local community. These exhibits weren’t created to make money, but rather to benefit society as a whole, and without the assistance of people like Dondero, they simply wouldn’t have happened. As a result, a child who was awed by the space exhibit may grow up to be a scientist who finds a cure for cancer and residents of the Dallas area don’t have to travel to Africa to see a hippo. In short, the benefits of Dondero’s type of giving are numerous and immeasurable.