Forty US Families Take 'Giving Pledge'
5 August 2010 at 12:18 pm
Forty of the wealthiest families and individuals in the United States have committed to returning the majority of their wealth to charitable causes by taking the 'Giving Pledge' but the idea is not likely to take off here according to an Australian philanthropist.
The Pledge campaign was kicked off six weeks ago by Microsoft founder, Bill Gates and his wife Melinda and the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, billionaire Warren Buffett.
The Pledge co-founders say the campaign is about asking wealthy families to have important conversations about their wealth and how it will be used.
They say they are delighted that so many people are signing on and that so many have decided to not only take this pledge but also to commit to sums far greater than the 50% minimum level.
Some of the big name signatories include New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Film Director George Lucas, Ebay founders Pierre and Pam Omidyar along with Founding Ebay President Jeff Skoll and television executive, Ted Turner.
George Lucas says that his pledge is to the process; as long as he has the resources at his disposal, he will seek to raise the bar for future generations of students of all ages. He says he is dedicating the majority of his wealth to improving education.
But according to Australian philanthropist, Daniel Petre the chances of an Australian Giving Pledge taking off are zero.
Petre says the "Giving Pledge" must make Australia's most wealthy feel pretty embarrassed.
In 2005 Petre funded research which showed that Australia's wealthy are not contributing as generously as they could and arguably as generously as they should.
Called "How the Wealthy Give", the research showed that Australians with a taxable income of more than $AUS1 million contribute less that 2% of their income, compared to Canadian millionaires who in average contribute 3.2% of their pre-tax income and US millionaires who on average give more than 3.5%.
Sydney-based Daniel Petre received Australia Day Honours in 2005 for his services to community. He is a former co-founder and chairman of the Internet company, e-Corp and long-time Microsoft executive and founder of The Petre Foundation.
Reacting to the latest news from the Giving Pledge, Petre asks how can wealthy Australians continue to feed crumbs to the charitable sector when, in a very short period with not much effort, 40 of America's most wealthy have allocated 50% of their wealth to charity?
A statement from the US co-founders of the campaign says the Giving Pledge is an effort to help address society’s most pressing problems by inviting the wealthiest American families and individuals to commit to giving more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes.
It says the pledge is a moral commitment to give, not a legal contract, and it does not involve pooling money or supporting a particular set of causes or organisations. While it is specifically focused on billionaires, the idea takes its inspiration from other efforts that encourage and recognise givers of all financial means and backgrounds.
A full list of those taking the pledge and personal pledge letters by many of these supporters outlining their commitment to give is available online at www.givingpledge.org