Back in the early 2000s, Bill Gates decided that if he was going to do some charity work and give away some of his money, he was going to go balls-out with it. He pledged the bulk of his wealth to the charity that he and his wife had founded, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and steadily throughout the years, their foundation became the gold-standard. The bulk of the foundation’s work is in developing countries in Africa and Asia, and they prioritize communicable, curable diseases, as well as quality of life issues, in addition to bringing technology, jobs and finance to the developing world. The foundation has a largesse of some-odd $20-30 billion from Bill and Melinda (from the last numbers I saw). Then, several years ago, Bill Gates’ friend, mentor and surrogate father Warren Buffett pledged the bulk of his fortune to the Gates Foundation as well – adding another couple dozen billion dollars to the pile.
With Buffett’s signal to rich people everywhere – that you can’t take it with you and you might as well give it someone who really needs it – more billionaires quickly signed on and made enormous pledges, not just to the Gate Foundation, but to other foundations and charities. And now America’s youngest self-made billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, has made a similar pledge. Zuckerberg is worth $6.9 billion, by this year’s estimates. And he just pledged the bulk of his fortune, taking the cue from Buffet and Gates.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is among 17 wealthy American families and individuals who have joined a promise to donate the bulk of their fortunes to charity, according to a group that supports the idea.
The Giving Pledge, the group founded by billionaire investor Warren Buffett and Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, said the additions bring the total number of wealthy American families taking the pledge to 57.
“People wait until late in their career to give back. But why wait when there is so much to be done?,” Zuckerberg said in a statement issued by The Giving Pledge. “With a generation of younger folks who have thrived on the success of their companies, there is a big opportunity for many of us to give back earlier in our lifetime and see the impact of our philanthropic efforts.”
Others joining The Giving Pledge in the announcement made late Wednesday include investor Carl Icahn, former junk bond investor Michael Milken, and America Online founder Steve Case and his wife, Jean.
“I’m delighted to welcome these 17 families into the Giving Pledge community,” said Buffett. “In just a few short months we’ve made good progress. The Giving Pledge has re-energized people thinking about philanthropy and I look forward to many more conversations with families who are truly fortunate, and whose generosity can and will change lives.”
They join a group that already included, besides Buffett and the Gates, Oracle (ORCL, Fortune 500) chairman Larry Ellison, David Rockefeller, CNN founder Ted Turner, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and “Star Wars” creator George Lucas.
It’s kind of amazing, right? Zuckerberg is 26 YEARS OLD. He still has decades to enjoy his billions, you know? There are yachts that could have been bought, expensive champagne that could have been poured on expensive hookers’ boobs, mansions and helipads that could have been maintained. Instead, this 26 year old kid decides to pledge the bulk of fortune to charity?
I also think that Zuckerberg is kind of enjoying the attention he’s gotten from The Social Network, and I think that with his higher profile, he felt the pull to do something big, and not in some “how do I get rid of this dead hooker’s body?” kind of way. I know it’s dumb to bring this all back to a movie, but I can’t help but think that the movie is part of it, part of Zuckerberg’s new-found celebrity. I applaud him for doing something righteous with his celebrity, and with his wealth.
By the way, Zuckerberg was on 60 Minutes this past weekend. Here’s the video – he’s actually pretty funny!