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  1. Wealth
February 20, 2013

Buffett and Gates' Giving Pledge Goes Global

By Spear's

Yesterday it announced 12 new signatories from 8 different countries

The Giving Pledge — a campaign launched by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates to encourage the wealthy give away half their wealth to charity — has gone global.

Yesterday, it announced twelve new signatories, from eight different countries, including five from the UK (Richard and Joan Branson, John Caudwell, Chris and Jamie Cooper-Hohn, Mo Ibrahim and David Sainsbury). The remainder came from Australia, South Africa, Germany, Russia, Malaysia, Ukraine and India. 

You might say it’s surprising that it’s taken over two years for The Giving Pledge to spread beyond the US — the super-rich, after all, occupy their own country, there’s no reason that ideas espoused by the likes Gates and Buffett should only influence their wealthy compatriots. 

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates founded The Giving Pledge in 2010

And yet, we know that the US is a world leader when it comes to philanthropy — the UK’s philanthropy ‘market’, for instance, may be developing rapidly, but we have a way to go before we catch up, both in terms of levels of giving, and the kind of support and advice offered to philanthropists.
We’ve been doing our best here at Spear’s to celebrate examples of philanthropic giving from around the globe, and have learned about the great diversity of personal stories that have motivated people to give. Take these three diverse interviews for instance:

> We’ve spoken to Hollywood actor and kung fu artist Jackie Chan (pictured below), who’s leading the way in Chinese philanthropy;

> to Palestinian businessman Munib Masri about his giving in Palestine;

> and to Russia’s richest woman, Elena Baturina, who’s now devoting her time to a new ‘creative think tank’.
The story doesn’t end with the individuals who give, but we’ve also explored the many different ways that philanthropy has shaped — and will shape — the world around us. These include:

> Exploring the effect philanthropy has had on Sydney’s art scene;

> how it’s preserving Romania’s wild forests;

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> and how the marriage between business and philanthropy could transform Africa’s dire education system.
Who knows how great an impact this expansion of The Giving Pledge to new countries could eventually have?

It’s no surprise that so many advisers talk of a ‘culture of philanthropy’ — the global wealthy might attend the same schools, share the same holiday destinations and own multiple homes in the same cities, but their attitudes towards charitable giving remain very diverse.

I recently wrote on philanthropy in India, and discovered how in emerging markets the relative newness of wealth, as well as the under-development of the charitable sector, has often hindered the development of philanthropy — although this is changing.

Gates and Buffett have visited India before to promote philanthropy among the Bollygarchs — they must consider it a boon that they’ve converted Azim Premji to the cause — but a number of philanthropy experts told me that India’s wealthy tend to say they’re happy to give, but would rather develop Indian traditions of philanthropy than borrow from American ones.

In India for instance, there has been a long tradition of ad-hoc, informal giving through temples and mosques, and hyper-local corporate philanthropy by family-run businesses. 

Whether there’s a global move towards the US model of giving or if countries decide to do it their way, it is encouraging to see that the philanthropy debate is going international. But if a philanthropic culture is really going to take root, it will have to grow organically. It’s great that Gates and Buffett are hoping to spread the word about philanthropy, provided their recommendations aren’t too prescriptive. 
Read more on Philanthropy

Read more on the Giving Pledge

Read more from Sophie McBain

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