The In’s and Out’s of the Giving Pledge

By September 17, 2018Grant management
The Giving Pledge

The Giving Pledge was created by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett to encourage the wealthiest population to give more than half of their wealth away. And it has worked! Kind of…

Amazon CEO gives away some of his fortune - Finally

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Jeff Bezos founded Amazon in 1994 as a small online bookstore. Since then it has become the world’s largest online sales company, being valued at $1 trillion. Making it the second company ever to hit such a target, after Apple! Jeff Bezos also owns the Washington Post and founded the aerospace company, Blue Origin. With a net worth of $150 billion, Jeff Bezos is the wealthiest man in the world and the first ever centi-billionaire.

On the 13th September, Mr. Bezos announced that he will be setting up his ‘Day One Fund’ and will be giving $2 billion into foundations that help the homeless, as well as setting up a new network of schools. These causes were chosen due to Jeff Bezos going onto Twitter and asking his 646k followers for suggestions on what to spend his fortune on last year.

Again, he tweeted the release of the Day One Fund on his twitter, saying “The Day 1 Families Fund will issue annual leadership awards to organizations and civic groups doing compassionate, needle-moving work to provide shelter and hunger support to address the immediate needs of young families”.

The Day 1 Fund will also launch a network of “high-quality, full scholarship, Montessori-inspired pre-schools” in low-income communities. He said, “We will build an organization to directly operate these schools”.

This is a great start in Mr. Bezos charitable giving, but he has been criticised in the past for his lack of philanthropy work and for the way he treats his employees in the Amazon warehouses. With even the US Senator, Bernie Sanders, criticising the working conditions. Comparing this, very generous, $2 billion grant to other billionaire philanthropists, it is far less. With Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, promising to donate 99% of his shares in Facebook to organisations that delivery ‘public good’. And the Bill and Melinda Gates setting up the Gates Foundation, the largest in America, and starting the Giving Pledge.

What is the Giving Pledge?

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The Giving Pledge was created in 2010 by the Gates family and Warren Buffett with the idea of setting a “new standard of generosity among the ultra-wealthy”. The concept of the Pledge is simple – for billionaires to donate at least 50% of their wealth to charities. Their aim is to change the norms of society in the sector of philanthropy toward ‘giving more, giving sooner and giving smarter’.

“This is about building on a wonderful tradition of philanthropy that will ultimately help the world become a much better place.”

Bill Gates

Currently, 184 of the world’s wealthiest individuals/families have taken up the Giving Pledge. These philanthropists range in age from their 30s to their 90s and represent 22 countries.

A common misconception of the Giving Pledge is that all of the billionaires signing up are donating to the same cause. This is not the case, being part of the Pledge does not limit the billionaires in the giving actions at all but in fact, supports them in it. They are free to choose whichever causes they wish and can use the Giving Pledge platform to discuss challenges, successes and even failures within their community.

Who has joined the Giving Pledge?

Here is a list of a handful of the ‘pledgers’ and their chosen causes, starting with the founders themselves;

Bill & Melinda Gates – They are especially keen on donating to health care and underprivileged families. Especially on ‘preventable deaths’ and illnesses such as rotavirus. In 2017 it was reported that the Gates had given a total of $50 billion in charitable donations.

Warren Buffett – His pledge consists of him promising more than 99% of his wealth to philanthropy during his life and/or death and does not limit this giving to a single or few causes.

Richard & Joan Branson – They believe that family is the most important thing, and that material possessions mean very little. They want to use their pledge to give a voice to young people and to invest in “entrepreneurial approaches to help make a difference in the world”

Mark Zuckerberg – The Facebook founder signed the Giving Pledge in 2015 with his partner, Priscilla Chan. They have set up long-term plans to improve education, science, and health starting in the Bay Area in California to all around the world.

David G. Booth – The newest member of the Giving Pledge, joining June 2018. His main aspect of giving is in education, giving millions to Universities across America, including $300 million to the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business, where he, himself, studied.

This is just 5 of 184 people who have joined the Giving Pledge and just a few of the causes they represent. They have a huge impact on causes including poverty alleviation, refugee aid, disaster relief, global health, education, women and girls’ empowerment, medical research, arts and culture, criminal justice reform, and environmental sustainability.

Who hasn’t joined the Giving Pledge?

There are over 1,500 billionaires in the world, which makes the number that has joined the moral commitment of the Giving Pledge much less impressive. Let’s take a look at some of the wealthiest people who haven’t, just like Jeff Bezos;

Oprah Winfrey – Oprah has a net worth of $2.8 billion from her time as the most popular tv show host in America, and she has not taken part in the Giving Pledge. That being said, in 2004 she became the first black person to rank in the ‘50 Most Generous Americans’ and stayed there until 2010. It is estimated that she has given away $400 million to educational causes, such as scholarships, and $40 million to her leadership academy in South Africa. Without being apart of the Giving Pledge, Oprah is still doing an incredible amount with her riches.

Donald Trump – This name may not surprise you on this list… Trump is worth $3.1 billion and did start up the Donald J. Trump Foundation in 1988. The Foundation was created to “distribute proceeds” from his book ‘Trump: The Art of the Deal’ to “charitable causes”. The board members consisted of Trump and his 3 children and Allen Weisselberg, but it was said that Trump made the final decision. Trump stopped contributing his personal funds into the Foundation in 2008 and only took donations from outsiders. I think it’s safe to say he won’t be joining the pledge.

Meg Whitman – As eBay’s CEO from 1998 to 2008, Whitman is worth $3.2 billion and she has not joined the Giving Pledge. However, in 2006 she and her husband created the Griffith R. Harsh IV and Margaret C Whitman Charitable Foundation. In the first year alone the foundation donated $125,000. Due to the eBay stocks going down the foundation lost money in its second year, but Whitman donated more of her stocks ($8.8 million worth) to the foundation.

There is a huge range of billionaires out there, all for the own reasons for not signing the pledge. Many because they do not feel the need to, as they are doing what the pledge asks already. Others, like Peter Kramer, believing that it is ‘status symbol’ and to create more attention. And some, of course, are not interesting in donating their wealth at all.

Jeff Bezos isn’t alone when it comes to donating his wealth (or lack of), and there is no law out there that makes him have to donate a cent. Of course, we hope that this $2 billion donation leads to more philanthropy in the future and that one day he may join the giving pledge. This donation will have a huge affect on some people’s lives and we are very grateful. We believe that the Giving Pledge is a great idea and are happy that the list of billionaires is slowly growing. Whether it is a marketing scheme to bring their companies more attention or not, everyone who has taken the Giving Pledge is donating an insane amount of money to try and make the world a better place, therefore it can’t all be bad.

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