Giving Pledge Letters Declare Commitment to Charity

January 5, 2011 Updated: January 5, 2011

The Giving Pledge, a philanthropic group of American billionaires, has been publishing letters from its newest members declaring their commitment to charity.

The organization began last year when Warren Buffet, along with Bill and Melinda Gates, urged the nation’s wealthiest to donate half or more of their riches to philanthropy. By taking the pledge, these families and individuals have committed to giving the majority of their wealth to charitable causes. Group members include Michael Bloomberg, George Lucas, Ted Turner, and more recently, Facebook co-founder, Mark Zuckerberg.

“People wait until late in their career to give back. But why wait when there is so much to be done?” asked Zuckerberg in his statement. “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.”

While the Giving Pledge is focused specifically on billionaires, the group says that it takes its inspiration from the generosity of Americans from a variety of backgrounds and incomes who have given in order to make the world a better place.

“Throughout my life I’ve seen firsthand how even a little financial assistance could mean a chance for struggling students, dedicated scientists, and families to reach their goals,” wrote George P. Mitchell.

“I made a commitment over 20 years ago that substantially all of my assets would be used to fund a charitable foundation. Until Bill, Melinda and Warren started this project, I never considered going public with my intentions. However, I certainly see the value of a project that encourages wealthy individuals to step forward and commit to use their wealth for the common good. I hope that by adding my voice with those who are supporting this project, we will all encourage others to participate,” wrote investor Carl Icahn.

Like the examples above, the group has each member publicly state their pledge, along with a letter explaining the decision. The Giving Pledge will hold an annual event so members can come together to share ideas and learn from each other.

“We share the view that those to whom much is given, much is expected. We realize we have been given a unique platform and opportunity, and we are committed to doing the best we can with it…We also look forward to working with the dozens of others who have made the Giving Pledge commitment to share lessons, perspectives and best practices,” wrote Steve and Jean Case.

The organization notes that the pledge is a moral commitment, and not a legally binding contract. Members are not required to pool money or to support a particular set of causes, rather they are expected to give to the charitable organizations of their choice either during their lifetimes or after their deaths.

“We very much believe that the accumulation of wealth gets us nowhere. Money has the most value when it’s used for others and the greater good, for sustaining and enriching our world. In our minds, foundational areas like education and health are the most critical,” wrote Duncan and Nancy MacMillan.

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