As you’ve undoubtedly heard by now, Bill and Melinda Gates along with Warren Buffett have been encouraging their fellow billionaires to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to philanthropy through the Giving Pledge. This could yield an enormous windfall for philanthropy and help advance causes across the board. But what can you do to help?
Well, for one, if you happen to be a billionaire, pick up your phone and give Bill and Melinda a call.
For the rest of us hovering just below the billion dollar mark, there’s the One Percent Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing persistent global challenges by building a broad-based movement for next generation philanthropy. The One Percent Foundation makes it easy to calculate and structure your giving so ensure that at least 1% of your annual income goes to the causes you support.
Want to see your impact increased? Consider joining or forming a Giving Circle. Giving Circles are groups of individuals who pool their funds and other resources to donate to their communities and seek to increase their awareness and engagement in the process of giving.
For decades, surveys have shown that upper-income Americans don’t give away as much of their money as they might and are particularly undistinguished as givers when compared with the poor, who are strikingly generous. A number of other studies have shown that lower-income Americans give proportionally more of their incomes to charity than do upper-income Americans. In 2001, Independent Sector, a nonprofit organization focused on charitable giving, found that households earning less than $25,000 a year gave away an average of 4.2 percent of their incomes; those with earnings of more than $75,000 gave away 2.7 percent.
All of which is to say that the really important thing is not how much you give, but that you give. We all struggle with our own budgets and need to make smart financial decisions, but investing in your community or in the causes that you are passionate about is pretty much always a good idea.
What to give and who to give it to is a personal decision. Bill and Melinda Gates can’t be everywhere and we can’t expect our most wealthy citizens to shoulder all the weight. Get involved, find your passions, and give what you can. Groups like the One Percent Foundation make it easy to plan your giving without breaking your budget—billionaire or not.