In 2010, Bill and Melinda Gates, along with Warren Buffett, founded the Giving Pledge, one of the largest and most influential philanthropic efforts to date. Upon launch, the Pledge’s founders recruited 40 of America’s most successful individuals, and together, they committed half of their fortunes toward creating comprehensive solutions for society’s direst issues.
I’ve been involved in philanthropy for a while, and I’ve always found the Giving Pledge an interesting and inspiring experiment in using altruism to catalyze globally impactful change. In hope of convincing others to follow the Gates’ example and take up great causes, I’ve written a bit on what the Giving Pledge is and who is involved.
What is the Giving Pledge?
The Giving Pledge is an open invitation asking charity-minded billionaires to promise the bulk of their earnings to ending societal struggles, not just in the United States, but worldwide. It is formed of powerful people inspired in turn by the generous spirits of average folks whose wealth cannot compare, but still give—sometimes at great personal cost—to help ensure futures for those who have even less.
Joining members usually begin their Pledge by writing a letter detailing what drove the choice to donate most of their wealth. In it, new pledges elaborate on charitable causes that spurred their decision, with the intent of drawing awareness to specific issues, and building strategies to alleviate those issues through open, ongoing public discussion.
As its charity initiatives are chosen by members, the Pledge addresses a range of matters, including (but not limited to) poverty alleviation, aid for refugees, disaster relief, global health, education, women’s empowerment, medical research, arts and culture, criminal justice reform, and environmental sustainability.
Who is On Board?
The Pledge originally included only American signatories but went global in 2013, welcoming new members from Australia, Germany, India, Malaysia, Russia, South Africa, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.
Today, the Giving Pledge boasts a diverse coalition of 169 signatories with cultural backgrounds as varied as their age range (31 to 93). A few of its newest members include Norwegian shipping mogul Kjell Inge Rokke (net worth: $1.3 billion), private equity investor Robert F. Smith ($2.5 billion), and Tanzanian industry mover Mohammed “Mo” Dewji ($1.39 billion).
What Can You Do?
While the dozens of men and women who have signed on to the Giving Pledge deserve praise for their incredible commitment to philanthropy, taking the Pledge simply isn’t an option for many people: Not everyone has billions of dollars just laying around. So while we may not be able to take the Giving Pledge ourselves, we can still follow the example of those who have by finding ways to support worthy organizations or causes. Contributing to charities that give directly to those in need can do some of the most good right now, but if you have an eye on the future, you can support initiatives like medical research. After all, while not everyone can take the Giving Pledge, everyone can find ways to support good causes and help make the world a better place.