The Giving Pledge, created by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates, urges the world’s wealthiest people to donate a large portion of their fortune to charity while they are still alive. The idea is to give members more say over how their money is spent and to encourage others to get active in philanthropy. The Giving Pledge has attracted more than 120 signatures in its four years of existence, including those of Yuri Milner and his wife, Julia.
Says Yuri Milner, “In creating the Giving Pledge, Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates have not just encouraged us to invest in problem-solving. They have also brought something approaching the scientific method to philanthropy. This means not just giving, but trying to learn from real-world experience and experiment in order to give effectively.”
In Yuri Milner’s pledge letter, his passion for science and technology shines through:
“Because of the acceleration of progress, and the urgency of our current problems, it is tempting to regard the present as an endpoint, to which everything has been leading. In reality, we are at the very beginning of human history. We are only now beginning to escape the confines of our nature—to out-think our pathogens, outsource our memories, open-source our brains, and link them together. We have no idea where our ideas can take us. But to find out, we must invest in them now.
The human adventure has barely begun,” Milner continues in his pledge letter. “I am hereby joining the Giving Pledge to invest in our leading minds and our shared future.”
According to its creators, the Giving Pledge is about more than just where individuals give. Equally important is how members inspire one another to think of new ways to make the world a better place. On the organization’s website, the Giving Pledge intends to “bring together those committed to this kind of giving to exchange knowledge on how to do this in the best possible way.”
This goal has already inspired many. The ability to communicate ideas, according to several signatories, is a priceless treasure. “If I get one idea out of it by joining, that would be enough for me,” Manoj Bhargava, the inventor of the 5-Hour Energy drink, said after signing the Giving Pledge.
In addition to Yuri Milner and his wife, Julia, at least 62 other billionaires have signed the Giving Pledge. They include:
Richard Branson is, of course, well-known for his Virgin brand of products. He has joined the Giving Pledge and, like many other billionaires, Branson aspires to make a positive difference in the world. Now that he and his wife can withdraw their funds from Virgin Group, they want to use them to support causes such as lowering carbon emissions, safeguarding the environment, and settling global conflicts.
Sainsbury—of the successful Sainsbury’s grocery chain in Europe—has also signed up for the Giving Pledge. David Sainsbury, a British signatory, inherited a $1.1 billion supermarket retail fortune, according to Forbes. “The approach of my wife, Susie, and I to philanthropy is very simple,” he opens his letter, implying that the first purpose of his gift should be the international promotion of improved grammar.
With the creation of the Giving Pledge, it seems like it has become easier for billionaires like Yuri Milner, David Sainsbury, and Richard Branson to become role models for giving to the rest of the world. With their examples, perhaps more will be inspired to give as much as possible to charitable causes around the world.