August 01, 2011 | By Bill Gates
Giving Pledge Progress
Scene from the Giving Pledge Annual Gathering, pictured Gerry Lenfest (L), Warren Buffett (R), Tucson, Arizona 2011. Photo: Courtesy of the Giving Pledge/Barbara Kinney
As we head into the second year of our work around the Giving Pledge, I’m happy with the progress we have made - now some 69 pledgers. It has really just started, but already the Giving Pledge has had a terrific response.
At its core, the Giving Pledge is about asking wealthy families to have important conversations about their wealth and how it will be used. We're pleased that so many people are doing just that - and that a significant number have decided to take the pledge and commit to giving the majority of their wealth to the philanthropic causes either during their lifetime or in their will.
The Giving Pledge doesn’t support a particular set of causes or organizations. It simply asks that the pledger give the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. It's about doing different things for different causes - from education and the environment to health and medical research.
The conversations I have had with pledgers and people who are considering it continue to surprise me. Their perspectives are refreshing. Their philosophies of giving, how to give effectively and achieve the greatest impact, and how to involve children and families are inspiring. I am fascinated to hear not only about their success stories but the lessons that have been learned from their failures. To a person they all want to do the best job possible with this important responsibility. The collaboration and conversation among generous givers of our generation is an important outcome of the Giving Pledge.
The letters from our pledgers describing their reasons for making the commitment to invest deeply in philanthropy make for some great reading. You can read the letters at www.givingpledge.org. And a recent Fortune story, ‘Charity on a Grand Scale’ provides a little background on some of the pledgers. The diversity of American giving is part of its beauty. Americans’ generosity with their time and money in support of non-profits is exemplary. Everybody can and should pursue their own approach to philanthropy.
It is exciting to see people of all ages and income levels energized about philanthropy and doing things in philanthropy. USA Weekend recently featured an article about the Salwen family who gave half of their money away to charity and is a brave example of how every American can give. In another USA Weekend article, Melinda and I talk about the example we received from our own families. All around us there are inspiring examples of generosity and commitment.
Our hope over the long term is to encourage people to start giving earlier, collaborate more and make their giving even more impactful. As we round the corner on the second year of the Giving Pledge, I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity for the Giving Pledge to help society become even more generous.