Sunday, October 31, 2010

The 15% Solution

Adopting the Gates/Buffett template to make a difference

I read an interesting article recently of the efforts by Bill Gates, Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett to persuade the billionaires in the USA to pledge at least half their net worth solving the social and medical problems of the world.

The trio are asking the wealthiest Americans to pledge 50% of their net worth to charities during their lifetimes or at death.

What effect will this have on philanthropic institutions? Nothing short of HUGE.

The Forbes magazine list of the 400 richest people in America estimates their total wealth of approximately US$1.2 trillion. Half of that would result in US$600 billion being channeled to charities.

This will certainly make a difference!

To date, some 40 pledges to give the majority of their wealth have been made. You can see the list of these donors, and read their own comments, at

As the site says, these pledges are a moral commitment to give, not a legal contract. Also, it does not involve pooling money or supporting a particular set of causes or organizations.

Having attracted interest in their movement domestically, the Gates pair have also had meetings in London, India and China to enlist interest and support outside America.

Of course, this concept need not remain the domain of the super wealthy.

Those of us who are Baby Boomers will, over the next 15-20 years, be the beneficiaries of the greatest transfer of inherited wealth the world has ever seen.

What is 10%, or 15%, or even 20% of that inheritance pool was diverted to charities? Can you imagine the positive impact this would have?

What would it take to create a 15% Giving Pledge within your local community or social network? What would it take to create a 15% Giving Pledge nationally?

Having read the article on the 50% pledge challenge, I pulled out my own will and did a quick calculation of the charitable contributions listed. Let's just say the figure fell a bit south of the 8% mark. I now pledge to increase this to 15% in an updated version.

Mrs. and Mr. Gates, along with their pal Mr. Buffett, have given us the template.

Let's make a difference at our own socio-economic levels. Let's put the 15% Solution to work -- for the future of our children and grandchildren and the world they will inherit.

After all, if they collectively inherit a better world, wouldn't this be better than simply leaving them only our accumulated assets and bank accounts?