Find and Support Your Local United Way

Tocqueville Society History

Tocqueville Society History

Only 26 years old when he came to the United States and Canada in 1831, Alexis Charles-Henri de Tocqueville traveled extensively, recording his observations of life in the young nations. Though he only spent nine months in North America, he gleaned an insightful view of American society. His observations, readings and discussions with eminent Americans formed the basis of Democracy in America, a detailed study of American society and politics published in two volumes, in 1835 and 1840.

Tocqueville recognized, applauded, and immortalized North American voluntary action on behalf of the common good. He wrote: “I must say that I have seen Americans make a great deal of real sacrifices to the public welfare; and have noticed a hundred instances in which they hardly ever failed to lend a faithful support to one another,” eloquently capturing the essence of personal philanthropy that persists, almost three centuries later. The observation on philanthropy made by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1831 is true today; North Americans understand that advancing the common good means creating opportunities for a better life for all. The name Tocqueville Society was chosen because of Alexis de Tocqueville’s admiration for the spirit of voluntary association and effort toward its advancement.


Founders of the Tocqueville Society

The United Way Tocqueville Society was founded in 1984 to deepen the understanding, commitment, and support of United Way’s most generous and community-minded investors. In his original letter to ten pilot cities dated March 15, 1984 Tocqueville Society founder, Dr. Thomas F. Frist Jr., wrote that the purpose of the Nashville “chapter,” the first Tocqueville Society in the nation, was to “recognize and honor those concerned individuals who accepted a leadership role in making major financial contributions to United Way.” Of those ten invited, 4 accepted the invitation and joined Nashville as the founding cities: Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati, and Des Moines.

United Way Worldwide provides guidance to United Ways in developing local Tocqueville Societies based on involving and cultivating new influential leadership; encouraging major gifts among high-wealth individuals; and cultivating additional resources with which to strengthen their communities.

The use of the name Tocqueville Society is granted only to those United Ways affiliated with United Way Worldwide's Tocqueville Society Program. To establish a society, the local United Way must contact United Way Wroldwide for program participation details and guidelines. Please contact your local United Way on how you can become involved with an exisiting or establish a United Way Tocqueville Society.

The Tocqueville Family Today

The United Way Tocqueville Society is honored by the involvement of descendants of Alexis de Tocqueville. The late Count and Countess Guy de Tocqueville d’Herouville and their three children, Patrick, Jean-Guillaume and Alexis, graciously granted permission in 1984 for United Way of America for our use  of the Tocqueville name and coat of arms.

Jean-Guillaume de Tocqueville d’Herouville and his wife Stephanie have been especially involved with the growth and development of the United Way Tocqueville Society, hosting Society members on philanthropic exchanges and traveling to attend various Tocqueville Society national events in the United States. Jean-Guillaume is a partner with Gide Lloyrette Nouel, a Paris-based global law firm. He studied political sciences and law both in Paris and the United States and is also a member of the New York Bar. Jean-Guillaume and Stephanie helped to found a United Way and Tocqueville Society in Paris.  They accredit their deep interest in philanthropy to contacts and friendships with members of the United Way Tocqueville Society and United Way Worldiwde. Jean-Guillaume is currently active in projects promoting the heritage of Alexis de Tocqueville throughout the world. Jean-Guillaume and Stephanie live part time in Paris with their four children and part time in Nromany at the Historic Tocqueville Chateau.

The chateau is used by the family as a second home, but a section of it can be rented.  It houses the original papers of Alexis de Tocqueville in his handwriting and guests can visit his study.  Ten percent of the rental fee paid by any Tocqueville Society member who rents the Chateau will be directed to the United Way in Paris to support their efforts to help vulenarble youth succeed in school.  To visit the Chateau website, click here


Tocqueville Today

Globally, Tocqueville Societies have continued to see growth in a number of ways.  Currently, 430 societies raise over $556 million dollars from nearly 27,000 individuals.   There are nearly 500-Million Dollar Roundtable members, in addition to more than 470 families who are members of the Tocqueville Legacy Circle because they have made plans to endow their annual Tocqueville support through a planned gift.


Other United Way Major Donor Programs

Support for United Way from Major Donors in other countries, giving, advocating and volunteering through programs using other names, are providing leadership in many local communities.

For example, major donor programs starting at $10,000 and up for United Ways in Canada provide more than $65 million for local communities.  The United Way of Great Toronto's major donor program has 1400 members making it the largest in the world.  In Korea, members of the Honor Society of the Community Chest of Korea make gifts of $10,000 USD or more.  More than 160 members have given $16.5 million USD (18.3 Billion KRW).