How to Give Away Your Billions to a Worthy Cause

Billionaires inspired by Buffet and Gates' Giving Pledge give their reasons.

June 7, 2017 8:56 am
How to Give Away Your Billions
(Sanjit Das/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

What would you do if you had a billion dollars? Buy a megayacht? A hypercar? Sting’s Central Park West penthouse?

Or would you pledge to give it all away?

In a recent column, The New York Times‘ David Brooks wrote on the subject—but from the perspective of actual billionaires, who had, in fact, pledged to give away more than half of their fortunes. Their philanthropy stems from Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett’s The Giving Pledge. (The concept was unveiled in 2010, with 40 of America’s wealthiest people promising giant portions of their fortunes to philanthropic objectives; since then, that number has expanded to 169 billionaires all over the world.)

Many of them have explained their reasoning in personal letters.

Notes Brooks, of the trends he saw in the letters and their writers:

“Most of the letter writers started poor or middle class. They don’t believe in family dynasties and sometimes argue that they would ruin their kids’ lives if they left them a mountain of money. Schools and universities are the most common recipients of their generosity, followed by medical research and Jewish cultural institutions. A ridiculously disproportionate percentage of the Giving Pledge philanthropists are Jewish.”

Brooks then fantasizes about what he might do with a billion dollars—but used for good, not frivolity. He envisions creating “collectives” to foster loving-kindness, education, and other positive stimuli in “disorganized communities.”

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