A Path to Giving:
Carol & John Toussaint

Carol and John Toussaint's generosity has helped shape our city.

Carol Toussaint’s path to charitable giving began early in life, when her aunt asked her to volunteer for the Red Cross during World War II. Carol’s husband, John, learned about the importance of investing in others from a family role model as well: his father. He was a dentist, and not all of his patients could afford to pay for care, though his generosity extended well beyond his practice. Sometimes it would be a pulled tooth at no charge; other times he would treat a patient to a cup of coffee or a bite to eat at the restaurant across the street.

“This was just accepted as part of our family giving back to the community,” says John.

Opportunities to put his talents to work for others during his two years in the military followed by his education at University of Wisconsin—Madison would also inform John’s life and work. Not long after, Carol would be right there with him as he pursued a career as a physician, as they traveled the country for a year observing medical facilities like the one he would soon open in Madison for people with disabilities, and settled into a busy life at home, at work and in the community.

In the early 1980s, Carol began her work with Madison Community Foundation in earnest, first as a consultant and later with the Board of Governors on a strategic plan to build and grow endowments for charitable giving.

“What I learned about community foundations early on was that they were flexible,” says Carol. “They have a core mission, but they’re flexible when it comes to an individual donor. If a donor wants to do something to give back to their community, that’s the vehicle. And they work for the long term.”

The funds Carol and John hold at Madison Community Foundation have supported many causes over time, and today, their commitment to philanthropy is as strong as ever.

“It is always satisfying to see a project in which you are interested expand, grow and involve more and more people within the community,” says John, whose passions include libraries, his church, the UW medical school, where he received his training, Madison Symphony Orchestra and so much more.

“Philanthropy isn’t just money and it isn’t whether you have it or you don’t. It’s whether you have the spirit and the will to share it,” says Carol. “That’s what makes it philanthropy.”