Skip to main content

Country queen and cultural icon Dolly Parton made a name for herself for being extremely generous with her wealth. And she said there’s a secret to being a little free-handed with donations sometimes. She learned at a young age that she can’t give everything away and should “always keep something” for herself.

Read on for more about Parton’s generous nature and how she navigates when to “share” and “spare” her savings. Plus, learn about another firm personal boundary she’s maintained throughout her career.

Dolly Parton, pictured on 'TODAY' in 2019, said there's a secret behind her generosity
Dolly Parton | Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Dolly Parton’s generous nature is no secret

Parton has made quite a name for herself as a philanthropist, donating millions to fund crucial medical research. In June 2022, she made news when she donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases.

In 2020, reports revealed that Parton helped finance the development of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine through a $1 million donation toward Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s research.

Another stellar example of Parton’s generosity is her Imagination Library project, which partners with communities to give kids free books. Launched in 1995, the program has gifted more than 150 million books, per the website.

Dolly Parton’s mother taught her a secret for being generous: ‘Don’t give it all away’

In an interview on Apple Music’s The Kelleigh Bannen Show, Parton said she thinks people who have much more than others should do their part to help those in need (per TODAY). But she added that someone shouldn’t give everything they have away.

“My mama told me when I was young, ‘Always keep something back for you,'” she explained. “You can give what you’ve got to give. But don’t give it all away.”

It might seem obvious, but loaning out too much money is an easy-to-make mistake, especially for those who aren’t worth millions. Parton explained it’s important to set that personal boundary to avoid over-extending with good intentions.

And Parton’s secret to navigating her fame and wealth is her faith. She said she prays to be given “enough to share and enough to spare when it comes to [her] money,” but she also asks to be able to take care of herself. “Let me share everything I can, but let me keep me,” she declared.

Dolly Parton learned how to be generous with fans while setting healthy personal boundaries


Dolly Parton Shares How Her Father Inspired Her Successful Children’s Charity

Being such a superstar as Parton is, millions worldwide would love to get something other than money from her. Whether that’s her time or personal insight into her life, she’s set firm boundaries over the years to ensure some things are kept private.

For example, Parton’s marriage to Carl Dean is not an open book for her fans. He doesn’t join her at public events though they’ve been married for more than 55 years. The couple established early in their marriage that he didn’t enjoy being in the spotlight, but he could wholeheartedly support her from home.

So, Parton has lived in two worlds for decades. “I’ve known how to keep my husband private. It’s just natural to me to protect the things and the people I love and to protect my own privacy,” she said on The Kelleigh Bannen Show (per NBC Philadelphia). She added her faith guides her there, too, sharing, “I’ve known how to do that because I think God has directed that.”