The world of philanthropy continues to buzz about the Giving Pledge and the growing number of wealthy families who are publicly committing to giving away the majority of their wealth.
The conversation is truly democracy in action. Americans are gathering together around an idea that inspires them and freely giving of themselves. They’re choosing to express their generosity in ways that make sense to them. Conversely, other Americans are expressing their right to freedom of speech, including publicly criticizing others’ actions and intentions.
Here’s where I stand, as if it matters to the wealthy donors or anyone else…
I stand with those taking the Pledge and the people who are cheerleading them, believing that over time:
- Their public expression of their intentions will inspire others of any means to be more generous, “give like a billionaire,” and maybe even increase the long-stagnant rate of giving
- Their increased giving create a larger, virtuous cycle of generosity in the ultimate beneficiaries of their gifts (thanks to Claire Glaudiani for this insight)
- The Pledge is a multi-billion dollar vote of confidence in the ability of the nonprofit sector to solve problems, and
- The Pledge could even reshape philanthropy.
So, I don’t stand with people who are unhappy because the Giving Pledge:
- Doesn’t instantly solve current nonprofit financial problems, pressing problems such as poverty, or even intractable problems with financing public goods
- Doesn’t have auditable tracking
- May lead to giving to endowments or foundations which they believe is anti-democratic or not charitable enough, or
- Won’t make enough of a difference if it isn’t based on some form of strategic giving or cohesive agreement around impact
The Giving Pledge is a proactive invitation from the wealthy to others to consider their moral commitment to give, and I don’t think it needs to be anything else. Even billionaires have the right to give just like you and I do. We give from our hearts and spiritual callings and rely on friends and instincts more than research. We sometimes make mistakes along the way and sometimes create legacies that are terrific. They do too.
We have to trust that over time we’ll all continually grow through our giving. We’ll learn more about ourselves and the world and learn to ask better questions of ourselves and of nonprofits. And, we’ll come to a place where we’ve each created our own inspiring intersections of meaningful giving and community results. Ultimately those paths to learning and meaning are ours to take, not for others to dictate.
Where do you stand on the Giving Pledge?