Thursday, March 5, 2009

The New Philanthropists

Warren Buffett, who has given at least 40 billion dollars to health, education and humanitarian causes.

If you read anything about malaria control and elimination one name crops up again and again - Bill Gates, or more precisely the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He is not alone in his generosity though. I was doing a quick fact check to see if he is still the world's richest man (he held this title for 15 years but slipped to number 3 last year) when I noticed some similarities between the (current) three richest men in the world:

1/ Warren Buffett. Worth $62 billion. Self made. Plans to give away ALL his fortune and has already given $31 billion to the Gates Foundation.

2/ Carlos Slim Helu and Family. Worth $60 billion. Self made. In recent years, he has donated close to $7 billion worth of cash and stock to fund education and health projects in Mexico City.

3/ Bill Gates. Worth $58 billion. Self made. As of 2007 Bill Gates was the second most generous philanthropist in America (after Warren Buffett), having given over $28 billion to charity.

I don't know if there is a connection between the fact that all these men made their own fortunes rather than inherited them, and their conspicuous philanthropy, but they are definitely powerful players in the global fight against disease. There have been several articles about these new philanthropists. This one, from Business Week, makes some very interesting points that we have seen in the fight against both Aids and Malaria in Africa.

This new philanthropy displays an impatient disdain for the cautious and unimaginative check-writing that dominated charitable giving for decades. So what does it look like?
  • It's more ambitious: Today's philanthropists are tackling giant issues, from remaking American education to curing cancer.
  • It's more strategic: Donors are taking the same systematic approach they used to compete in business, laying out detailed plans that get at the heart of systemic problems, not just symptoms.
  • It's more global: Just as business doesn't stop at national borders, neither does charitable giving. Donors from William H. Gates III to George Soros have sweeping international agendas.
  • It demands results: The new philanthropists attach a lot of strings. Recipients are often required to meet milestone goals, to invite foundation members onto their boards, and to produce measurable results--or risk losing their funding.

1 comment:

Rachel Jones said...

I think it's great that the world's richest people are trying to give back some of that wealth and better the world we live in.

And on a side note--Warren Buffet lives 5 minutes from my grandparent's house in Omaha, NE. For the richest guy in the world, his house is actually pretty modest. It's larger than the other houses in the neighborhood, but much smaller than the mansions of certain movie stars...