When people think of billionaires, they tend to look at them with envy, wishing they were them. They tend to imagine how nice it would be to be these people with all their money and success. Others may be thinking most billionaires hoard their money, which is why they have so much. But in actuality, many billionaires give large percentages of their fortunes to charitable causes. Some give publicly, while others choose to make their giving anonymous.
Warren Buffett in conjunction with Bill and Melinda Gates of Microsoft, launched a campaign in 2006 called The Giving Pledge, which seeks to get billionaires to commit at least half of their wealth to philanthropy throughout their lives or upon death. This pledge has really taken off among the world’s wealthy as a way to publicly declare their desire to help the world and to hopefully inspire more of their financial peers to join in the cause.
To date, 115 billionaires have pledged themselves to the cause and have written personal notes on the importance of giving. Among those names are some very well-known people. Here are 12 billionaires who are giving large sums of their fortunes to do good for humanity and the earth alike.
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12 Ronald Perelman
Ronald Perelman is an investor worth more than $14 billion. His company is MacAndrews and Forbes Holdings Inc, and he is also the Chairman of New York’s well-known concert venue Carnegie Hall. He has donated money mainly to causes of education and medical care. One of his earliest contributions to medical research led to the development of a breast cancer treatment drug around 20 years ago. He has continued to give money to medical research since. He is a participant of The Giving Pledge, pledging to donate at least half of his assets after his family has been provided for.
11 Larry Ellison
You may not know the name Ellison or his company, Oracle Corporation, but his work is well-known in the tech industry. Oracle is the developer of the popular Java programming language that is used throughout the world in many electronics. He is worth about $51 billion and is a participant of The Giving Pledge. In his pledge letter, he wrote: "I put virtually all of my assets into a trust with the intent of giving away at least 95 percent of my wealth to charitable causes." He went on to write “Warren Buffett personally asked me to write this letter because he said I would be ‘setting an example’ and ‘influencing others’ to give. I hope he’s right.” He primarily donates money to causes benefiting medical care and education.
10 Paul Allen
Paul Allen is the co-founder of Microsoft. While his name may not carry the household recognition of his partner Bill Gates, his philanthropic activities are certainly up to par with him. Allen runs The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, dedicated to improving communities both in the Pacific Northwest, where he lives, and others. He has also founded the Allen Institute for Brain Science, which seeks to research the workings of the human brain. He donates vast amounts through his foundation to medical research, recently focusing on Ebola research. He has also pledged to leave most of his estate to philanthropy upon his passing.
9 Ted Turner
Ted Turner is a media mogul and is the founder of the Cable News Network (CNN) among others. His perhaps most well-known act of charity is when he gave $1 billion in support of the United Nations, thereby creating the United Nations Foundation, seeking to receive contributions to the UN through other sources as well. Turner claims his philanthropy is influenced by his father, who participated in a lot of charitable work throughout his life. Turner’s Giving Pledge states: “I’m putting my resources and energies toward tackling the world’s more important issues…the threat of nuclear annihilation, climate change, and the continuing growth of the world’s population.”
8 Azim Premji
Premji is the chairman of Wipro Limited, a giant in the IT industry in India. He founded the Azim Premji Foundation in 2001, through which he aims to improve the public education system in India. Most of his philanthropic work seeks to improve the lives of people in his homeland of India. He is a participant in The Giving Pledge. “I strongly believe that those of us, who are privileged to have wealth, should contribute significantly to try and create a better world for the millions who are far less privileged. I will continue to act on this belief,” his pledge states.
7 Jeff Skoll
Jeff Skoll may be best known as the first president of the popular internet auction site eBay, as well as for his work in movies, but he has engaged in a lot of philanthropy over the years. In 1999, he founded the Skoll Foundation, which seeks to help other entrepreneurial efforts get on their feet. In 2009, he founded the Skoll Global Threats Fund. This company seeks to deal with urgent threats to humanity, such as climate change, peace, nuclear weapons and pandemics. He claims to have already donated over half his wealth since he came into his eBay money.
6 David Rockefeller
The Rockefeller name has been quite popular for decades. “Who do you think we are, the Rockefellers?” is a common sarcastic question many Americans have heard at one point or another, likely during their childhood. It is good to know that such a well-known name is so generous with their money. Rockefeller was of course a banker and served as CEO of Chase Manhattan Corporation for years. David Rockefeller has donated large sums of money to the causes of poverty, health and the environment. A participant in the Giving Pledge, he has promised at least half his assets to philanthropy.
5 George Lucas
A man needing no introduction, George Lucas is of course most famous for his Star Wars series of movies. Although Lucas lives a pretty quiet life and is rarely seen in the public eye. His movies are one which everyone has either heard of and/or seen. Most people probably don't know that Lucas is also a prominent philanthropist. Lucas is engaged in helping to improve the state of education through his organizations Edutopia, and the George Lucas Educational Foundation. He has strong beliefs that education is crucial for the success of future generations. He is also a participant in the Giving Pledge.
4 Michael R. Bloomberg
Michael Bloomberg is a very popular name that most are familiar with. The previous mayor of New York has been giving to causes for a very long time, and long before his career started as the Mayor of New York. He writes in his Giving Pledge letter: “The reality of great wealth is that you can’t spend it and you can’t take it with you. For decades, I’ve been committed to giving away the vast majority of my wealth to causes I’m passionate about.” Bloomberg founded Bloomberg Philanthropies, which gives to causes such as education, arts, health, environment and government innovation.
3 Mark Zuckerberg
Compared to some of the other names on this list, Zuckerberg is very much new money. But even though he hasn’t had his money for a long time, the Facebook founder has been an active philanthropist during his time as a billionaire. Through the Giving Pledge, he and his wife Priscilla Chan, have pledged most of their estate to charity. In addition to his previous pledge, this year, following the birth of his daughter, he and his wife pledged to give away 99% of their Facebook stock holdings, worth an estimated $45 billion, to various causes over the course of their lives.
2 Bill Gates
Bill Gates is of course well known for his work in the software industry as co-founder of Microsoft. However, after his retirement, he became more known for his philanthropy along with his wife Melinda. They founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, which focuses on interests of education, healthcare and ending poverty. They seek to help people in poverty-stricken areas and countries, seeking to improve the quality of life and combat deadly diseases plaguing these countries, that often have little to no access to healthcare. Gates was ranked as the most generous philanthropist in 2014, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
1 Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett is well known for his work in investments, widely hailed as the most successful investor in the world. Founder of the Giving Pledge along with Bill and Melinda Gates, Buffett wishes that more billionaires would follow his example and pledge to give their money to worthy causes. In June 2006, he pledged to give away 83% of his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest single charitable donation in history, valued at over $30 billion. Buffett is said to be worth $63 billion, according to Forbes, making him the 3rd wealthiest man in the world in 2015. He was ranked the world’s most generous philanthropist in 2007 by Bloomberg Businessweek.
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