Cook Wealth Management Group

How the Gates Foundation is Giving

donating to charity

In the last 50 years, charitable giving in the U.S. has increased every year – except two: 1987 and 2009.

As reported in the Giving USA 2010 Executive Summary, “Total charitable giving fell 3.6 percent (-3.2 percent adjusted for inflation) in 2009, to an estimated $303.75 billion. This is the steepest decline in current dollar terms since Giving USA began its annual reports in 1956.”

Especially in the first half of 2009, spending of any kind, charitable or not, slowed. Still, Americans gave to charity, albeit less often and a bit more quietly.

Enter Bill Gates, a man who gives plenty and has plenty to give. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the world’s largest charitable organizations with a $33 billion endowment funded by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and investor Warren Buffett.

Their latest pursuit is the Giving Pledge, which encourages billionaires like Ted Turner, David Rockefeller, and Michael Bloomberg to give away at least half of their wealth within their lifetime. So far, forty billionaires have signed the pledge.

The Giving Pledge is just that – a pledge: no contract, only a promise to give away a particular amount before or upon death. The Giving Pledge does not specify where or how to donate, but asks billionaires to promise half of their fortune to charity.

Why not require a firmer commitment? Jeff Raikes, chief executive of the Gates foundation, says the pledge is not about writing checks, but about cultivating passion for a cause, about getting people more involved in philanthropy. Ideally, the Giving Pledge will set the stage for many successful individuals to start their own foundations, to organize their own pledges.

While it can be overwhelming to think of all the charities that need money and all the worthy causes that need help, The Gates Foundation focuses on doing a small number of things very well (such as pursuing the social development of poor countries using science and technology in richer countries), and suggests other foundations do the same – isolate a particular need and work hard to fulfill it in a specific way, so that a broader success can be achieved.

In keeping with cultivating passion for a cause and increasing philanthropic efforts in our community and abroad, we will feature a charitable organization each quarter on, beginning in 2011.

According to a survey conducted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, charities typically receive one-third to one-half of their annual donations between October 1 and December 31. As this year comes to an end, remember: “The miracle is this — the more we share, the more we have.” — Leonard Nimoy

Dates, statistics, figures, and information regarding the Gates Foundation and US charitable giving were taken or derived from the following:
“Charitable Giving Down So Far in 2009, But Critical Giving Period Coming Up.” Association of Fundraising Professionals. Oct. 20, 2009.
Giving USA 2010 Executive Summary. Published by The Center on Philanthropy at the University of Indiana.
“Bill Gates’ charity man happy to help billionaires give.” Michelle Nichols. Reuters. August 6, 2010.