In May 2017, Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates welcomed 14 new signatories to their Giving Pledge – an initiative started in 2010 whereby wealthy individuals commit to give away at least half of their wealth to good causes.
These fourteen latest pledges took the total number of billionaire philanthropists giving to causes such as refugee aid, medical research, global health, disaster relief, poverty reduction, agricultural research, environment and sustainability research, and arts and culture to 168 – that’s a whole lot of big bucks signed up to one initiative.
Why is there no Batman?
You’d think with all the money floating around at least one of these billionaires would have tried to become Batman by now! Although as cool as the caped crusader is, perhaps these individuals are demonstrating the insight and skill that made them so rich by donating to causes that will benefit all of mankind rather than entertain comic book fans with flashy vigilantism.
We live in a complex world with some rather complex problems but that doesn’t mean they can’t be solved. Protecting the environment for future generations, investing in technology and the jobs of the future, ensuring our children have the same or better opportunities than we had, ensuring everyone has access to clean water and no community goes hungry. These issues are solvable thanks to philanthropy but we need more of it.
Included in the new intake of generous billionaires is Australia’s own Leonard H Ainsworth, an intensely private entrepreneur who has decided to take his philanthropy public by signing the Gates’ and Buffet’s pledge.
The idea behind the Giving Pledge is to encourage others to consider giving to good causes too, even if they aren’t billionaires. That is why Leonard H Ainsworth publicly pledged at least half of his fortune to altruistic causes – to encourage others to do the same whatever their means. So how much do you need to be worth or earning to be a philanthropist? The short answer is: anything.
Philanthropy isn’t about how much you’re worth; it’s about how much you care. Part of life is giving back and trying to make a difference. To paraphrase US politician Elizabeth Warren:"Nobody got rich on their own. You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate."
"You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You created a business and turned it into something great. That’s awesome! Keep a hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along."
Nobody got rich on their own. You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for.
That can apply to us all regardless of our means. Philanthropy is caring; it’s wanting humanity to achieve its potential and giving whatever you can to assist that. For some people, it is their money, but that money is only a vehicle for the ideas and work of others. Your philanthropy can be helping local causes, mentoring a student, volunteering your time or donating your resources. Do what makes you feel good.
Giving back is the best feeling. It’s an investment in yourself as much as other people because it’s helping to create a better world and who wouldn’t want to live in a better world? Okay, maybe the nihilists but apart from them we’d all like the real world to be a little more like a Richard Curtis movie and less like the real world!
So, start your philanthropic journey today. Do something kind for someone else and think about how you can make a difference in the world no matter how small.