More billionaire households have taken up Buffett’s charitable giving campaign, pledging to donate half their wealth and taking the American tradition of philanthropy to new levels.
Eleven more of America’s wealthiest families have committed more than half their fortune to charitable giving, following in the footsteps of billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates, who launched the Giving Pledge initiative in 2010.
“This new group brings extensive business and philanthropic experience that will enrich the conversation about how to make philanthropy as impactful as possible,” Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said in a statement.
So far the initiative has enlisted 92 of the richest individuals and families in the United States, according to a statement released by the Giving Pledge yesterday. The donors, ranging in age from 28 to 97, use charitable giving to support a wide variety of causes, including education, health, medical research, social services and the environment.
“Philanthropy is in the DNA of my family,” Charles R. Bronfman, one of the latest pledgers, said in a recent letter to Giving Pledge. The New York state resident enjoyed a 50-year career with The Seagram Co. LTD., and served as chairman and principal owner of the Montreal Expos. He currently chairs the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies Inc., dedicated to strengthening an appreciation of heritage, history and cultural identity among young people.
Americans tend to be a generous group, giving at notably high rates, but investors appear to develop a greater sense of duty and obligation as they build and consolidate wealth, according to ongoing Millionaire Corner research. More than half (54 percent) of investors with $25 million or more cite “using my wealth to help others” as a significant personal concern, according to our $25 Million Plus Investor 2012 report published this month. The share falls to 34 percent for investors with $1 million to $5 million, and to 28 percent for non-millionaires with $100,000 up to $1 million to invest.
The nation’s richest investors also worry greatly about the well-being of their children and grandchildren, but in a different way than most Americans. Two-thirds of $25 million plus investors say they worry about their wealth undermining the “work ethic, educational or career plans” of the next generations, and nearly three-fourths say there are worried about raising financially responsible children.
Manoj Bhargava, one of the latest philanthropists to join the Giving Pledge, puts it this way, “My choice was to ruin my son’s life by giving him money or giving 90+ percent to charity. Not much of a choice. Service to others seems the only intelligent choice for the use of wealth. The other choices especially personal consumption seem either useless or harmful.”
Bhargava, the founder of 5-hour Energy, works to ease human suffering by supporting schools and hospitals in rural India, and is also involved in a number of environmental and health initiatives.
One-fourth of $25 million plus investors surveyed by Millionaire Corner indicated an interest in impact investing “as a way to promote social good and to use my wealth in a productive manner.” According to a letter from Dan and Jennifer Gilbert, among the latest to commit to the Giving Pledge, “Wealth is created. If that wealth is all passed on to another generation its benefits are often greatly underutilized as those who inherit the wealth view their mission as one of maintaining it. The better path is one that allows wealth to be activated as a force to make the world a better place through endless avenues.”
Dan Gilbert is founder and chairman of Quicken Loans and majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. He and his wife, Jennifer, focus their charitable giving on research and treatment of a genetic nervous system disorder, neurofibromatosis, as well as economic development in Detroit and Cleveland.