Monday, June 26, 2006

The Biggest Week in the History of Charitable Giving?

Is it hyperbolic to consider that this past week has probably been among the most significant in the philanthropic world? Not since 1913 when John D. Rockefeller established his foundation has such an important series of events taken place in such a short span of time:

  • Bill Gates announces that he will step down from day-to-day operations at Microsoft to devote his attention to his private foundation -- the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation -- the largest private foundation in the world. He is only 50 years old, and I do not think it is too presumptious to think that his influence as head of the foundation will not only equal, but may even eclipse his tenure at Microsoft.
  • Warren Buffet makes an unprecedented move of pledging $30 billion of his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. His munificence is only exceeded by his magnamity. He could have created the second largest private foundation in the world overnight. Instead he only makes the biggest foundation that much bigger, and only asks for a board seat. His total commitment of $37 billion of his personal fortune is the largest gift to charity in history.
  • Sandy Weill makes a "deal with God" and pledges to give his estimated $1.4 billion fortune away to charity.
  • And Americans gave away $260 billion away in 2005, a record high, up 6.1% from 2004.