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Warren Buffett wants his Giving Pledge to define philanthropy for generations.
At the 2016 Concordia Summit in New York on Tuesday, Buffett discussed the philanthropic movement with Yahoo Finance editor Andy Serwer via video conference. The Giving Pledge is a group for billionaires who publicly promise to donate at least half of their wealth to charity during their lifetime or upon death.
Buffett founded it in 2010 with Bill Gates, and the Giving Pledge now has 156 members, many of whom sign along with their spouse, showing that it’s a family commitment.
Each member writes a letter explaining why they are making the decision, and Buffett says these are not merely press releases, and may even be more important than any single donation “because they’re messages to the future.” Buffett explained that they “will be influencing philanthropy 10, 20, 50 years from now, just like Andrew Carnegie’s ‘Gospel of Wealth.'”
He told Serwer that he is most proud of the younger signatories, like the cofounders of Airbnb. “I tell them, every one of them is worth 10 of me because you’re going to have young people, particularly in this day and age, get wealthy very early and they’re going to look to the people who are their heroes, whether it’s Mark Zuckerberg or Brian Chesky,” he said.
We’ve collected samples from some of the letters below, and all can be read on the Giving Pledge’s website.
Pershing Square Capital Management CEO Bill Ackman
- Matthew Eisman/Getty Images
“I am not a particularly religious person, and believe that my limited time on earth is all that I am going to get. And I have lived with that understanding, doing my best to extract as much out of life as I can. I get tremendous pleasure from helping others. It’s what makes my life worth living.”
Spanx founder Sara Blakely
- Alana Kakoyiannis/Business Insider
“I have so much gratitude for being a woman in America. I never lose sight that I was born in the right country, at the right time. And, I never lose sight of the fact that there are millions of women around the world who are not dealt the same deck of cards upon their birth. Simply because of their gender, they are not given the same chance I had to create my own success and follow my dreams. It is for those women that I make this pledge.”
Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio
- Larry Busacca/Getty
“We were lucky enough to have experienced the full range of financial circumstances. … When we earned more money, we experienced relief and then the diminishing returns of having more money. We learned that beyond having enough money to help secure the basics – quality relationships, health, stimulating ideas, etc. – having more money, while nice, wasn’t all that important. … So we found taking our excesses and providing it to others who have an extreme shortage has been both a good investment and a great satisfaction.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
- David Ramos/Getty Images
“We’ll make long term bets that others won’t make and that will take a decade or longer to achieve their goals. We’ll learn from each project and apply those lessons to future work. That’s why we’re starting and making this commitment now while we’re still early in our careers – so we can gain experience early and become more effective in our giving over time.”
Innovation Ventures CEO Manoj Bhargava
- YouTube/Hot New Trailers
“My choice was to ruin my son’s life by giving him money or giving 90+% to charity. Not much of a choice.
Service to other seems the only intelligent choice for the use of wealth.”
Airbnb cofounders Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk, and Joe Gebbia
“We all live with unknown potential. The younger you are, the more unknown it is. But the clock ticks by every day of your life. And each day someone young isn’t exposed to what is possible, their potential slowly dims … I would like to help them dream.”
“We see our young age and long time horizon as beneficial aspects to our future giving.”
“I want to devote my resources to bring the moment of instantation, when someone who has an idea sees it become real, to as many people as I can.”
Bloomberg L.P. CEO Michael Bloomberg
“One of the senior managers at my company, Bloomberg L.P., recently told me that part of his new hires recruiting pitch is to ask, ‘What other company can you work for where the owner gives nearly all the profits to charity?’ Nothing has ever made me prouder of my company than that one story.”