In 2010, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, his wife Melinda, and financier Warren Buffett launched the Giving Pledge campaign, which encouraged billionaires like them to set a single standard of generosity - giving more than half of their fortune to charitable causes. The founders themselves were radical: Bill Gates announced that he was donating $ 77.3 billion - 95% of his savings, Warren Buffett - $ 66.7 billion (99% of all he earned). With the first members of this kind of "club of billionaires" Gates and Buffett met in person, persuading them to repeat their feat.
Interestingly, the Oath of Donation is not a legal, but only a moral obligation (donors do not have a common bank account). The donor is free to choose the charitable programs that it is important for him to support, create funds or act through existing ones. It is not necessary to part with a lot of money right away: you can start distributing it whenever you want - during life or even bequeath it. The oath is not supported by any additional agreements. The donor writes a letter in which he explains the motives of his act, after which it is published on the website of the "club" - givingpledge.org.
No matter how noble all this may sound, there are, of course, critics. There are those who argue that the Oath of Giving is one way to reduce the tax burden (in most countries donated funds are tax-free). Another critical scenario is that an oath is taken for the sake of status and increasing awareness of one's own brand.
It is still difficult to understand who is right, but this is before the first scandal.
At the moment, 183 people from 22 countries have taken the Oath, some of them are couples who own the state together. Every single one is billionaires. Considering that according to Forbes, there are 2,043 registered people in the world with a fortune of more than a billion dollars, there are not so many who want to donate what they have acquired by overwork. But their number is growing every year - and with it the total amount that, according to the promises, goes to charity grows.
As of June 2018, total donations were $ 735.66 billion.
There are two Russian billionaires on the list of those who gave the Oath of Gift - Vladimir Potanin and Yuri Milner. The second left Russia in 2012 and now lives in California, where he invests in the largest IT companies in Silicon Valley and the world, including Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Xiaomi, Alibaba, Airbnb and WhatsApp. In a letter of oath, he writes that he will continue to invest most of his fortune, which Forbes magazine estimates at $ 3.7 billion, in support of science. Vladimir Potanin's fortune in 2018 is $ 15.9 billion.
The names of other donors are probably also familiar to you - Elon Musk, George Lucas and his wife Mellody Hobson, Richard and Joan Branson, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, Ukrainian tycoon Victor Pinchuk, Richard and Nancy Marriott, David Rockefeller …
The overwhelming majority on the list are Americans, which is understandable: firstly, it is there that there are most of all billionaires, and secondly, personal acquaintance with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett motivates to follow in their footsteps.
Once a year, donors come together to exchange experiences and share ideas.
To take an oath, you need to: have at least a billion dollars, be ready to give half in life or bequeath, fill out an application on the site givingpledge.org and wait for feedback.
Of course, not everyone agrees. The late philanthropist Robert Wilson did not want to take the Oath and wrote to Gates in a letter that billionaires actually hate giving out their money while they are alive.
Bill Gates, the initiator of the Giving Oath, is known to have topped the Forbes list of the richest people in the world for many years. Warren Buffett confidently held the second place. But this year, Amazon founder and owner Jeff Bezos has been bypassed. And he is still in no hurry to join the Gates club. Jeff Bezos has his own project, TheDream.us, which supports the children of illegal immigrants who grew up in America. In the States, they are called "dreamers" and they have the right to stay in the country, but only on condition that they do not break the law. Under Trump, such children were deported without trial even for crossing the road at a red light - by the way, one of the storylines of the last season of Grace's Anatomy is dedicated to this (yes, it's still on!).
Bezos says he wants to see quick results in his activities - and is giving "dreamers" grants of $ 30,000 for college tuition. At the same time, critics believe that this will help the billionaire to make customers love Amazon for humanity even more, and to Bezos himself - to find talented low-paid employees to develop the company.
What do billionaires swear about? (quotes from the Oath of Giving)
“I decided to donate most of my fortune to charity … I believe that wealth should work for the public good … I am sure that simply signing a check cannot solve the problems that people are concerned about. Personal participation is extremely important … My decision is not only an attempt to leave a good memory of myself, but also a way to protect my children from the burden of excessive wealth, which deprives them of the motivation to do something of their own in life …"
Yuri and Yulia Milner:
“In 1894, Hermann Einstein lost the contract for the supply of electrical devices to Munich. His company has failed. As a result, his teenage son, Albert, was forced to rely on the support of relatives to secure the last few years of his studies. The question for economists is: what was the amount of profit for mankind on these investments?..
This is a difficult question: we do not know whether Einstein, without receiving an education, could have become a physicist in some other way, or some other genius would soon have revealed his theories to the world. And more importantly, we do not yet know all the consequences of Einstein's theories … We are just starting to explore the universe … The human adventure has barely begun. I join the Giving Pledge to invest in our leading minds and our shared future."
Richard and Joan Branson:
“Fortunately, in my life I have been able to realize that material things do not matter much. Joan and I lived in a boat, and one day it sank. We realized that we had not lost anything except our family photo albums. Later, our house in London caught fire, the fire destroyed everything. Last year, lightning hit our home in the British Virgin Islands (we are talking about the events of 2011 - Branson's mansion burned to the ground, and in September 2017, hurricane Irma destroyed not only the house, but the entire private island of the billionaire; Branson and his family miraculously survived natural disaster in a concrete wine cellar - MS). We were so happy that everyone survived - against this background, even the loss of photo albums and laptops no longer mattered to us.
Material things are really not what brings happiness. Family, friends, good health, and the satisfaction that comes from positive change are what really matter.
Fortunately, the children who will become our main heirs agree with us on this matter. Most of our money will be invested in projects aimed at creating a healthy, fair and peaceful world for future generations."
Mark and Priscilla Zuckerberg:
“There were many opportunities in our lives: we were lucky, we received good health, excellent education and support from a devoted family … And we believe that those who are lucky should return at least half of their wealth in a lifetime. The needs of the world are great. We decided that we would live our lives working to ensure that future generations have as many opportunities as possible.”
Author: Ksenia Naumova
Photo: Getty Images, rexfeatures.com, eastnews.ru
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