The billionaire challenge

Fortune Magazine has an exclusive story about a project among the nation’s billionaires.  Here is an excerpt:

Just over a year ago, in May 2009, word leaked to the press that the two richest men in America, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, had organized and presided over a confidential dinner meeting of billionaires in New York City. David Rockefeller was said to have been a host, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Oprah Winfrey to have been among those attending, and philanthropy to have been the main subject.

Pushed by the press to explain, Buffett and Gates declined. But that certainly didn’t dim the media’s interest in reaching for descriptions of the meeting: The Chronicle of Philanthropy called it “unprecedented”; both ABC News and the Houston Chronicle went for “clandestine”; a New York magazine parody gleefully imagined George Soros to have been starstruck in the presence of Oprah. One radio broadcaster painted a dark picture: “Ladies and gentlemen, there’s mischief afoot and it does not bode well for the rest of us.” No, no, rebutted the former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Patty Stonesifer, who had been at the meeting and had reluctantly emerged to combat the rumors. The event, she told the Seattle Times, was simply a group of friends and colleagues “discussing ideas” about philanthropy.

And so it was. But that discussion — to be fully described for the first time in this article — has the potential to dramatically change the philanthropic behavior of Americans, inducing them to step up the amounts they give. With that dinner meeting, Gates and Buffett started what can be called the biggest fundraising drive in history. They’d welcome donors of any kind. But their direct target is billionaires, whom the two men wish to see greatly raise the amounts they give to charities, of any and all kinds. That wish was not mathematically framed at the time of the New York meeting. But as two other U.S. dinners were held (though not leaked), Buffett and Gates and his wife, Melinda, set the goal: They are driving to get the super-rich, starting with the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, to pledge — literally pledge — at least 50% of their net worth to charity during their lifetimes or at death.

Without a doubt, that plan could create a colossal jump in the dollars going to philanthropy, though of what size is a puzzle we’ll get to. To begin with, a word about this article you are reading. It is the first public disclosure of what Buffett and Melinda and Bill Gates are trying to do. Over the past couple of months Fortune has interviewed the three principals as the project has unfolded, as well as a group of billionaires who have signed up to add their names to the Gates/Buffett campaign.

via The $600 billion challenge – FORTUNE Features – Fortune on CNNMoney.com.

HT:  tODD

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    As one who has helped manage the finances of nonprofits, specifically churches, I think that the mega-wealthy need to be very careful what they do. First of all, I can start by noting that most of us probably benefit far more from Microsoft than they would from Gates’ charitable efforts; the ultra-rich need to be careful that they don’t hurt the world by neglecting their primary abilities.

    Second, and perhaps more importantly, easy money KILLS a lot of charities by setting up the requirement to handle all of it–and also tends to bring in a lot of unsavory characters as well. The ultra-rich need to be aware that the kinds of safeguards used by big business to handle that kind of resources simply don’t exist in most charities.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    As one who has helped manage the finances of nonprofits, specifically churches, I think that the mega-wealthy need to be very careful what they do. First of all, I can start by noting that most of us probably benefit far more from Microsoft than they would from Gates’ charitable efforts; the ultra-rich need to be careful that they don’t hurt the world by neglecting their primary abilities.

    Second, and perhaps more importantly, easy money KILLS a lot of charities by setting up the requirement to handle all of it–and also tends to bring in a lot of unsavory characters as well. The ultra-rich need to be aware that the kinds of safeguards used by big business to handle that kind of resources simply don’t exist in most charities.

  • http://RoseFremer@yahoo.com Rose

    Let’s hope many Christian organizations are endowed.
    In past generations, Ford and Rockefeller endowed Christian philanthropies. (Although crosses were removed from Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago in a 1992 renovation.)
    My younger son is an IT entrepreneur and a devoted Baptist.
    His dream is to become a Christian philanthropist, God willing.
    If so, he would give a share to Lutheran seminaries and schools for my sake. I’ll remember your advice, Bubba.

  • http://RoseFremer@yahoo.com Rose

    Let’s hope many Christian organizations are endowed.
    In past generations, Ford and Rockefeller endowed Christian philanthropies. (Although crosses were removed from Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago in a 1992 renovation.)
    My younger son is an IT entrepreneur and a devoted Baptist.
    His dream is to become a Christian philanthropist, God willing.
    If so, he would give a share to Lutheran seminaries and schools for my sake. I’ll remember your advice, Bubba.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    I got an idea. In order to keep charities from being overwhelmed by the large amounts of money they might receive, we could escrow it through a 3rd party who would distribute it as needed and provide oversight of the uses to which the distributions may be applied. The 3rd party could be the subject matter experts on what needs exist and how to apportion the philanthropy.

    We could call that 3rd party something like, “The Federal Government.” In fact, that’s such a good idea that we should just require the “mega-wealthy” (and everyone else) to participate.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    I got an idea. In order to keep charities from being overwhelmed by the large amounts of money they might receive, we could escrow it through a 3rd party who would distribute it as needed and provide oversight of the uses to which the distributions may be applied. The 3rd party could be the subject matter experts on what needs exist and how to apportion the philanthropy.

    We could call that 3rd party something like, “The Federal Government.” In fact, that’s such a good idea that we should just require the “mega-wealthy” (and everyone else) to participate.

  • http://www.Godbewithyounow.com Michael Pace

    My name is Michael Pace and I am the Web Founder of Godbewithyounow.com. The site is designed to provide a truly unique method to pray for one another without the needs of registration or cost. We also provide inspiration Christian hymns and contemporary videos, on line Bibles and information about our Founding Fathers.

    We are seeking a small donation or sponsorship to further the word of God. We have placed significant funds and time to build the site but we are now in need of further funds to both expand and continue the site. Any assistance will be greatly appriciated; our goal is to Glorify our Lord God through word and deed.

    If you need additional information you may contact me today at 704.301.1432 or email me @ michaelpace@Godbewithyounow.com.
    Thanks in advance for your prayer and consideration.

    Best regards,
    Michael Pace

  • http://www.Godbewithyounow.com Michael Pace

    My name is Michael Pace and I am the Web Founder of Godbewithyounow.com. The site is designed to provide a truly unique method to pray for one another without the needs of registration or cost. We also provide inspiration Christian hymns and contemporary videos, on line Bibles and information about our Founding Fathers.

    We are seeking a small donation or sponsorship to further the word of God. We have placed significant funds and time to build the site but we are now in need of further funds to both expand and continue the site. Any assistance will be greatly appriciated; our goal is to Glorify our Lord God through word and deed.

    If you need additional information you may contact me today at 704.301.1432 or email me @ michaelpace@Godbewithyounow.com.
    Thanks in advance for your prayer and consideration.

    Best regards,
    Michael Pace


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