The backdrop to putting this issue of Alliance to bed is the Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge, described on the Pledge website as ‘an effort to invite the wealthiest individuals and families in America to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to the philanthropic causes and charitable organizations of their choice either during their lifetime or after their death’. At the time of writing, 40 American billionaires had already signed up; Fortune magazine estimates the Pledge could generate as much as $600 billion in charitable giving.
Is this as good as it sounds? In an article for the Chronicle of Philanthropy titled ‘The Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge won’t do much good unless it changes philanthropy’, Pablo Eisenberg poses the key question: ‘Who will provide the leadership to increase the quality of philanthropy, not just the amount of money given?’ An editorial in the UK’s Guardian newspaper (7 August), while acknowledging the role of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in bringing ‘a new focus and a lot more cash to the fight against poverty and the diseases of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa’, points out that the vast majority of recipients of large individual donations, in the US and the UK, are arts foundations and universities. Unless these patterns change, the new wave of philanthropy will do little to solve global problems of poverty and inequity.