Thursday, June 17, 2010

The $600 Billion Challenge

I found this article in Fortune Magazine (though quite long) to be amazing and inspiring.

The $600 billion challenge - FORTUNE Features - Fortune on

The short of it - Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have been working for a while to create a pledge from the worlds 400 billionaires to donate 50% of their wealth to philanthropic and charitable causes either in life or at death. According to reports, the net worth of these billionaires is $1.2 trillion dollars, making the pledge $600 billion dollars. Astonishing. To put this in comparison, the IRS reports that Americans as a whole donate $300 billion dollars to charitable causes and organizations annually - by far the greatest total of any country in the world (and this doesn't take into account that Americans at lower income levels do not itemize for this so the number surely is greater). To date, the billionaires donate 11% of their wealth, which, as the article points out, is slightly better than a tithe. Again, impressive.

Some of the heavy hitters who have been meeting regularly concerning this are: David Rockefeller, Sr.; Warren Buffett; Bill Gates; Mayor Bloomberg; "Pete" Peterson; Julian Robertson; George Soros; Charles "Chuck" Feeney; Oprah; Ted Turner; Eli and Edythe Broad; and John and Tashia Morgridge. Say what you want about those on this list - like them or not - but they, plus many others, or seriously going forward with this. You may visit this site for more information. In the article I was most impressed by Charles "Chuck" Feeney who actually dropped off of the Forbes top 400 wealthiest people alive in 1997 because he "gave bulk of holdings to charity." I can't say as to what charities and philanthropic causes these monies are going to or will go to, and I do not know what eternal consequence this will have, but the fact that the Gates Foundation has already invested billions to come up with and distribute a tasty pill that combats malaria - that's a huge cause worth supporting.

I especially liked the closing paragraph of the above article by Carol J. Loomis, senior editor at Fortune, "Society cannot help but be a beneficiary here, by virtue of at least some dollars and perhaps many. Nor will it be just the very rich who will perhaps bend their minds to what a pledge of this kind means. It could also be others with less to give but suddenly more reason to think about the rightness of what they do." There's a challenge for all of us.

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