The world’s richest men, often thought of as the most selfish by those less fortunate, seem to be turning a new leaf. Case in point: Microsoft’s Bill Gates has teamed up with Warren Buffett to ask American billionaires to step up and pledge at least half their fortunes to charity…really? We could sure use some of that cash out of stock and back into the system creating new businesses and jobs too.
While most of the rest of the world has been suffering through the funk of economic recovery, with only meager hope on the horizon, Bill and friends have gotten busy putting their shoulders to the wheel. Starting with persuading his long time friend Warren, who sports little if any record of charitable giving, Gates convinced him to crack open his wallet and start making a difference. Now the two of them are taking it on the road and promoting charity as the new buzzword of the rich.
It seems the winds of change were already beginning to shift. Forbes editor William Baldwin was quoted almost four years ago as saying, the “rivalry in (yacht) size is giving way to rivalry in charitable endeavors.” The idea of giving seems to be catching on. And giving, versus merely pledging, is the game changer. What really matters isn’t what one promises to give away, but what people are willing to actually give as irrevocable gifts.
Last year, Luisa Kroll, Forbes List of the Richest 400 Americans editor, conducted a poll of the world’s wealthiest people; not just the Forbes 400, but 793 billionaires worldwide. She wanted to know who had actually given more than $1 billion away to charitable causes. Only 11 people in the world made the hit parade – or about 1%.
Gates led the list by a considerable margin, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he seems to be the driving force for leading billionaires into philanthropy, starting with his good friend, the formerly Scrooge-ish Warren Buffett.
The momentum seems to be building too. The world’s richest man, Carlos Slim Helu, shared a press conference with Bill Gates earlier this week to announce they would be forking over big money to fight poverty in Mexico and Central America. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been a huge sponsor of education in the US and throughout the world as well.
Fortune’s Luisa Kroll said they will be publishing their newest list of the world’s most generous people this summer and she hopes to see more than 14 names on it. We do too.
So cheer up fellow citizens of the world. The Rich are coming. Help is on the way!