The Giving Pledge, a voluntary commitment to give away at least half of one’s fortune before death, is a significant contemporary campaign to boost billionaires’ charitable actions. The Giving Pledge, which was founded in 2010 by Bill and Melinda Gates in conjunction with Warren Buffett, now has 220 signatories. Over time, the pledge aims to help shift the social norms of philanthropy toward giving more, giving sooner, and giving smarter, according to the Giving Pledge.
Following the global financial crisis of 2008/2009, Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates convened a series of informal meetings with a small group of affluent contributors to discuss the best strategies to persuade fellow billionaires to raise their philanthropic giving. These gatherings resulted in a slew of new ideas for increased giving, but they also highlighted that many billionaires want to keep their charity private and are unlikely to join any group effort with high standards. Finally, the founders agreed on a promise that encourages other billionaires to give at least half of their wealth to charity during their lifetime or at death. As a result, beneficent billionaires such as Yuri Milner and his wife Julia, Mike Bloomberg, Larry Ellison and George Kaiser, as well as many other billionaires around the globe, have now pledged hundreds of billions of dollars in aid to thousands of charitable organizations around the globe.
The Giving Pledge keeps a list of billionaires who have become official pledgers, that is, those who have committed to giving away a portion of their wealth, either during their lifetime or after. The list is now extensive, and it includes some of the most well-known billionaires, as well as others who are less well-known, but equally generous. They include:
Married couple Yuri and Julia Milner have joined the Giving Pledge and have so far given away billions of dollars to charitable causes. Yuri Milner has a long history of generosity, helping fund the Wharton School of Business, where he studied, as well as founding non-profits that fund science initiatives like the Breakthrough Prize, Breakthrough Initiatives and Tech for Refugeeds.
Mike Bloomberg is well-known because he is the former three-term mayor of New York City. What is less well-known is the fact that Bloomberg is a pledger who is listed on the Giving Pledge website. He has already donated billions of dollars to charities in the U.S. and abroad and has vowed to continue his commitment to giving.
Larry Ellison is an American business entrepreneur and investor who founded Oracle Corporation and served as its co-founder, executive chairman, chief technology officer, and former CEO. He is the ninth-wealthiest person in the United States and the 10th-wealthiest person in the world, and he has pledged to give away a large portion of his wealth through the Giving Pledge.
George B. Kaiser is the president, CEO, and majority owner of GBK Corporation, which is the parent company of Kaiser-Francis Oil Company. He is the chairman of the board of directors and main stakeholder of BOK Financial Corporation, as well as a key shareholder in a variety of firms throughout the world. He is yet another generous billionaire who has committed to giving through the Giving Pledge.
The billionaires who have already donated shares of their fortunes through the Giving Pledge are helping change the world through their charitable giving, one step at a time. No doubt future billionaires will join the march for change.