Untours’ founders, Hal and Norma Taussig, were decades ahead of their time!
The Untours Foundation was established quietly in 1992 by Hal [1924 – 2016] and Norma [1923 – 2015] Taussig, the founders of Untours .the tour company that pioneered apartment vacations in the 1970s and went on to become the world’s first B Corporation.
Hal and Norma were never motivated by money. When running Untours, Hal worked to share the company’s profits with his customers and later with his staff. As he tried to give away his profits, he faced incredulous and confused customers and other hurdles that at times resembled a Hollywood comedy.
In an effort to smartly manage his generosity, he settled on the idea of a foundation. Hal and Norma started the Idyll Development Foundation discreetly. It operated quietly for years, changing its name to the Untours Foundation to match its successful partner travel business.
This “secret” foundation, which focused on microlending at the start, was uncovered in 1999 when Paul Newman and John F. Kennedy, Jr. named Untours the “Most Generous Company in America” and awarded Hal’s foundation $250,000 in prize money.
All the while, Norma and Hal continued to live simply: wearing thrift store clothes, composting their food scraps, and shoehorning the Untours staff into their home for parties. Meanwhile, the profits of their travel company seeded small business development, Fair Trade, and job creation through the foundation.
In a final act of generosity, Hal arranged for the Untours Foundation to inherit the travel business, which remains a generous supporter of the foundation.
Our timeline shows how the Untours Foundation as we know it today is the legacy of the rich life and profound values of our founders. We are proud stewards of this legacy and have set for ourselves the ambitious goal to continue to evolve and grow our mission to serve an ever-changing world, guided by our strong her/history.
Norma was born and reared on a farm in Texas.
Hal was born and reared on a ranch in Colorado.
Hal and Norma met, married, and settled on a Colorado ranch.
With the government stopping its support of ranchers, the Taussig ranch hit hard times. To improve their situation, Hal and Norma bought an expensive bull, who turned out to be sterile — something that Hal and Norma laughed about in later years ! They went broke.
Together with their 3 children, the family moved east, where Hal and Norma each worked while Hal earned a PhD at the Univ. of Pennsylvania.
Hal taught at Spalding University and was fired during Vatican II for being too liberal. He always laughed about this, too!
Hal gave his car to a hitchhiker and switched to a bike.
Trying to launch a business based on his book, Shoestring Sabbatical (Westminster Press), Hal attracted tourists instead of sabbatical-takers. His new business, then called Idyll, Ltd. but now known to all as “Untours,” was born offering a rich, local, indigenous experience to travelers wanting more than bus tours of new lands.
As Untours was becoming profitable, Hal decided for spiritual reasons that he didn’t want any money. The next two decades were a bit of a Hollywood comedy.
Hal’s first attempt to share the profits was through dividing them among his customers — or “Untourists” as they are lovingly called — and sending them each a check. Many thought Hal crazy, but everyone cashed their checks!
Hal tried a new approach, one that lasted a decade. He paid all Untours employees, including Norma and himself, the same wage, and shared profits equally at the end of each year. The year of the first Gulf War when US Americans did little traveling, there were no profits and the staff was not happy.
Tired of the profits burden, Hal tried selling Untours to the staff, but some with seniority blocked the sale not approving of Hal’s egalitarian approach to this deal.
Hal then created the Untours Foundation, seeding and replenishing it with Untours profits and support.
Hal won $250,000 from Paul Newman and J.F.K., Jr. for having the “Most Generous Company in America.”
Elizabeth Killough joined Hal, and they had an awesome decade together. Elizabeth added that all foundation loans had to take the climate crisis into consideration.
Hal and Elizabeth spearheaded the campaign to make their town of Media, PA, “America’s First Fair Trade Town,” now followed by 44 towns and cities across the US and supported by Fair Trade Campaigns, a national organization.
Hal inspired the B Corp movement just through his life choices. Untours became the World’s First B Corp.
Hal and Elizabeth added that all businesses the foundation invests in must hit multiple metrics and be models of the world we want to see.
Advocacy to other foundations about “mission aligned investing” was added to the foundation’s agenda after it was pointed out that the Untours Foundation was 100% mission aligned from the get-go.
The Untours Foundation hires a Co-Director