What could come of dozens of the nation’s richest people getting together? The options are limitless.

Bill&Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet, longtime billionaires and philanthropists, have teamed up to create a network of America’s richest people, reaching out to the Forbes 400 in order to ask for donations. However, this campaign, now known as The Giving Pledge, goes further than any have in the past, asking donors to promise 50% of their net worth to charity. Billionaires who have publicly agreed to the pledge include: NYC Mayor Bloomberg, Oprah Winfrey, David Rockefeller, George Lucas, and more. Some of the participants have already promised to give even more, such as Buffet, who pledged to give 99% of his wealth to chaitable donations.

Although the Gateses and Buffet have been arranging meetings with some of the richest billionaires in the nation for the past year, they kept the dealings top-secret until recently, and little was gleaned by the press as to what these powerful people were planning. In June of this year, Fortune Magazine printed a comprehensive story detailing the Pledge for the first time, and estimating its potential. (http://features.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2010/06/16/gates-buffett-600-billion-dollar-philanthropy-challenge/ )

At its most recent count, the Pledge had signed on 30 billionaires. If it were to reach its goal of obtaining half the networth of the 400 richest people on Forbes List, it would mean $600 billion going towards charity. To give some perspective, people in the U.S. gave an estimated $307.65 billion  to charity in 2008, and is usually the leading country in charity donations.

Reading about this ambitious, admirable cause left me with two questions: first, no statement has been made about what charities the money will go towards, but which causes do you think are the most deserving, the most in need of this money?

Second, how can we create an environment of selfless giving amongst our own community? By no means am I claiming that Brandeisians are akin to billionaires, and what with the recession charitable donations have become a lot more difficult for people to make, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be massive efforts to fundraise.

Already this past school year the student body voted overwhelmingly in favor of passing the Brandeis Sustainability Fund (http://innermostparts.org/2010/04/27/win/) electing to pay an extra fee of $7.50 per semester in order to take steps towards ‘greening’ our campus. Another great successes was the Haiti Relief Effort (http://www.brandeis.edu/haiti/ ) which raised over $30,000. So, what steps should we take towards more effective fundraising next?

5 comments on “The Giving Pledge grows in size”

  1. Art Says:

    See, the rich ain’t so bad.

  2. Nat Says:

    The poorest quintile in the US gives the highest percentage of its income to charity, the second poorest gives the second highest, etc.

    Warren Buffet’s kids will be fine with one percent of his fortune. They’ll certainly inherit more money than a vast number of Americans, and that’s completely discounting the advantages they got from growing up wealthy, let alone a Buffet.

    But going more towards the thrust of your post the fact is, a private university like Brandeis is antithetical to charity. I was only financially able to attend Brandeis thanks to merit aid (and a lot of it) but the costs of a single student attending this university for four years is almost certain to be greater than the total funds raised by the Haiti RE (which I think was a great sum, by the way). If two students decided to attend state universities instead of Brandeis and give the difference to charity… you see where this is going. I’m not one to discount the value of the education I got by any means, but going to Brandeis indicates that I value that more than the needs of Haitians or whoever, who almost certainly would have gotten better use out of the money it cost to attend.

  3. C.L. Says:

    I understand the desire towards charity and I think that it is perhaps necessary in quick response situations (mutual aid). However, we need systemic change.

    “It is immoral to use private property in order to alleviate the horrible evils that result from the institution of private property. It is both immoral and unfair.” – Oscar Wilde

    And, if we aim at systemic change, I don’t think that we can achieve it by funding enough of the right nonprofits…

    P.S. The number of billionaires has increased during this recession. I feel that this is just a way for these ultra-rich to glorify themselves further (in the moral sacrificial mode) and I feel that it’s rather un-democratic. Also, tax-write off?

  4. Alex N. Says:

    Nat, I think you’re right but I don’t think this means you can’t go to a top notch school and still care about charity. As Brandeis students we will most likely throughout the course of our lives make more money and have more career control than those who went to state schools or didn’t attend college at all. The burden is on us to use these added resources to give more than would have been possible had we simply donated the difference.

    And C.L. the need for systemic change is not a reason not to give charity. Indeed, giving that is invested in infrastructure can be used to make systemic changes in itself. To say that no solution will work is not a solution. Also, none of us know the motives of these people and to stereotype the ultra-rich is still a stereotype. I think we should encourage a movement that glorifies those with wealth for giving rather than simply for having wealth.

  5. Art Says:

    Well the wealth itself is not worthy of glorification-it’s simply all too easy to take the easy way out and scoff at these people and say they don’t deserve what they have. That said, promotoing-not legislating-charitability amongst the wealthy sounds like an end all could agree to.