The Giving PledgeWritten by Keith Burwell | | Keith@toledocf.org
Have you heard about the Bill Gates and Warren Buffett Giving Pledge? They are challenging their fellow billionaires to pledge half of their wealth to charity. In little time, the two men have convinced 38 of those listed on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans to make that pledge.
The story goes that in May 2009, Gates and Buffett hosted a dinner that featured the world’s elite, at which time they presented the idea of the Giving Pledge. While we can appreciate their efforts, giving money to charities is not the main point here. As Mr. Buffett said “At its core, the Giving Pledge is about asking wealthy families to have important conversations about their wealth and how it will be used.”
Their actions set an example for those of more modest means to make more donations. “By giving, we inspire others to give of themselves, whether their money or their time,” said Michael Bloomberg, New York’s mayor, who was in attendance at the dinner, among others.
Most of the rich today are self-made, and did not inherit wealth as many think. They understand what it means to start with a little and turn it into a lot. Many presented with the Giving Pledge challenge had already planned to give large amounts of their wealth to charity.
But this pledge also takes giving one step further — to encourage this group to start giving while they are alive, and to exercise their knowledge and the combined strength of their giving to make a difference today.
It is also a call for collaboration by this group to bring the transforming power of philanthropy to our communities. In fact, this pledge in many respects can be used as a definition of the “Community Foundation.” Give now and at your death in collaboration with others to make the community better for everyone.
We should not allow this question to be asked just of the billionaires. Each of us should ask, “How much is enough?” and “How can we help through our giving?” Peter Peterson, one of the pledge signers and co-founder of The Blackstone Group, penned the question: “Why let the billionaires have all the fun?”
With several studies showing charitable giving down over the past several years, it is time for us to act like or better than the billionaires and join by giving, creating philanthropy that will support our community today and into the future.
You don’t have to be Gates or Buffett to make a difference. Toledo Community Foundation has assisted your community for more than 35 years by promoting and expanding philanthropy, and has built a permanent source of funds to meet present and future community needs. One of the ways we accomplish our mission by providing tailored services to help individuals, families and businesses accomplish their charitable objectives conveniently, effectively and with maximum tax benefits. Whatever your philanthropic passion, Toledo Community Foundation can help you design your own giving plan.
So billionaires, feel free to jump on the Gates/Buffett bandwagon. All others, set up a charitable fund with Toledo Community Foundation and get the expert advice and support the billionaires get! Contact Toledo Community Foundation at (419) 241-5049 or visit www.toledocf.org.
Keith Burwell is president of the Toledo Community Foundation.