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July 7, 2011

Giving Pledge Gets More

By Spear's

As The Giving Pledge, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s scheme to encourage the wealthy to donate their fortunes to charity, marks its first anniversary, the diversity of its members continues to grow. But could it work in Britain?

by Georgia Edwards

As The Giving Pledge, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s scheme to encourage the wealthy to donate their fortunes to charity, marks its first anniversary, the diversity of its members continues to grow. But could it work in Britain?

John Paul DeJoria, one of the ten newest members, who signed up in April 2011 said in his pledge: ‘At an early age, my mother shared with me the privilege of giving back and I experienced how good it feels to help someone in need. That stuck with me in my adult life.’ A man who had been homeless twice, but is now a billionaire known for John Paul Mitchell Systems hair care products (now Paul Mitchell), experienced what it feels like to be in need. Raised by a single parent in the Echo Park district of Los Angeles, DeJoria had to sell greeting cards at the age of nine in order to support his family. He told Forbes that he was living in his car when he started John Paul Mitchell Systems in 1980.

Now an established businessman with companies such as The Patron Spirits Company, he stands by his motto ‘success unshared is a failure’ and shows this through the variety of charitable causes he has donated to, and has been welcomed at the White House Conference on Philanthropy in Washington.

Warren Buffett back in April celebrated 69 Americans taking the Pledge. ‘We are seeing great progress in less than a year. I am delighted that so many wealthy Americans are taking a public pledge that supports philanthropy.’ The Giving Pledge is not a legal contract, but a moral commitment and each member has his or her own giving plan.

Not all think that it redefines philanthropy or has an effect on giving in general. The philanthropist Lewis B. Cullman has a rather sceptical view of The Giving Pledge: ‘My opinion is: so what?’ He told The Wall Street Journal that money donated by the wealthy too often ends locked within foundations that may only release a fragment of the millions of dollars held inside.

And could this work for the British? In an interview with BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Gates said that the pledge was confined to the US, however he would be willing to set up a parallel scheme in the UK. A Guardian online survey showed that when asked who should lead it, 31 per cent of readers thought that Sir Richard Branson could do the job, however 29 per cent thought that it simply would not work in Britain.

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Critics may point out that the way Britain does philanthropy is different than that in the US: primarily the publicity that comes with the pledge would not be wanted. That said, the Charities Aid Foundation estimates the Giving Pledge in the UK could raise up to 60 billion from Britain’s billionaires, based on the Sunday Times Rich List figures.

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