While billionaires are making their billions, the business of giving is also booming
Last year, was one of the best if you were a billionaire. With a strong global stock market, your net worth would have significantly increased, and in the case of Jeff Bezos, it nearly tripled. But as the rich were getting richer, they also became more generous than ever before – or at least most of them.
One of biggest philanthropists last year was Bill Gates. He and his wife Melinda donated a staggering $4.6 billion to their Foundation in August that supports health, global development, policy and education. Warren Buffet, another serial philanthropist, donated a total of $3.17 billion of Berkshire Hathaway stocks between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Susan Thompson Buffet Foundation (named after the billionaire’s first wife), and three other charities set up by his children including the Sherwood Foundation, Howard G. Buffett Foundation and NoVo Foundation.
The philanthropy bug also bit the tech tycoons. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan donated $1.9 billion to their Chan Zuckerberg Foundation. Dell founder, Michael Dell and his wife Susan, were also part of the 2017’s billionaire-philanthropy club and donated $1 billion to the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.
The overwhelming trend among billionaire philanthropists is to no longer draft a large cheque to an institution and then forget all about it. Instead, most of them are investing in their own foundations where they’ll have direct oversight and take a hands-on role in determining how the money is spent.
Billionaires are also spurring their tribe to be generous. Buffett, for example, along with Gates set up The Giving Pledge in 2010 and now has 173 signatories from 22 countries. The pledge requires those billionaires to commit at least half of their net worth to charity during their lifetime. Buffett has led by example and committed that they will eventually give away all his Berkshire Hathaway shares, while Zuckerberg has pledged to donate 99 per cent of his Facebook shares to charity during his lifetime.
As for Bezos, he’s yet to make up his mind as to where to donate his billions. He’s not stingy, just indecisive. Got any good ideas?