Until now the Giving Pledge, Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett’s appeal to billionaires to commit at least half of their wealth to charity, has seemed to fall on deaf ears outside the US. Gates and Buffett’s trips to China and India to persuade billionaires there to join up were notably unsuccessful.
But India’s Azim Premji is one of the 12 non-US billionaires who announced yesterday that they would commit themselves to giving away at least half their wealth. Five come from the UK: Richard and Joan Branson, the Sudanese-born Mo Ibrahim, John Caudwell, Chris and Jamie Cooper-Hohn, and David Sainsbury. Others are Andrew and Nicola Forrest from Australia, Hasso Plattner from Germany, Vincent Tan Chee Yioun from Malaysia, Vladimir Potanin from Russia, Patrice and Precious Motsepe from South Africa (who actually made the announcement a few weeks earlier, at the end of January) and Ukraine’s Victor Pinchuk.
The Giving Pledge is not just about the financial promise; joining is a public statement meant to inspire others and to promote conversations about philanthropy – something the new Pledgers have already been doing in their respective countries.
‘The Giving Pledge is a sacred cause worth supporting,’ says Vladimir Potanin in an interview to be published in the March issue of Alliance magazine. ‘It is the most visible initiative of this kind, and it is a good chance for me to promote Russian philanthropy …’ Approached by Bill Gates to see who else from Eastern Europe might also join the Giving Pledge, Victor Pinchuk is quoted as saying that Gates and Buffett ‘will be surprised how many conversations I’ve had with big businessmen in this part of the world’.
However, a recent survey by the Institute for Philanthropy suggests that the number of philanthropists who have already made the decision to commit the majority of their wealth to good causes is potentially much greater than the Giving Pledge campaign implies. Of the 26 per cent of respondents who estimated that they will give at least half of their wealth in their lifetimes, less than half (four out of ten) have signed up to the Giving Pledge.
Nor does the IfP survey support the view that inspiring others is an important motive for joining. Of the four philanthropists who had joined, including David Sainsbury, the motive for signing was simply ‘Wish to devote the majority of wealth to good causes’.
The 38 philanthropists who responded to the survey came from seven different countries, the UK (39.5 per cent), US (36.8 per cent), Canada, Mexico, Netherlands, Finland and Italy. Their average annual giving is just over $1.5 million.
With the new members announced yesterday, the Giving Pledge now totals 105 families.
Chronicle of Philanthropy, 19 February http://philanthropy.com/article/Giving-Pledge-Adds-12-Families/137383/?cid=pt&utm_source=pt&utm_medium=en
Forbes, 19 February http://www.forbes.com/sites/randalllane/2013/02/19/the-giving-pledge-goes-global-warren-buffett-details-americas-latest-export
Institute for Philanthropy http://instituteforphilanthropy.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/a-response-to-the-giving-pledge-announcement
Those who wish to read the full interview with Vladmir Potanin, who discusses why he made the decision to give the majority of his wealth to philanthropy, can subscribe to the magazine. The March issue also includes a special feature on philanthropy in emerging market countries.