How These Giving Pledgers Are Donating Their Wealth

The Giving Pledge is a campaign in which philanthropists promise to donate most of their wealth to charitable causes, whether it’s during their lifetimes or upon death. Warren Buffett, Melinda French Gates, and Bill Gates established it in 2010 to address some of the world’s most pressing problems. The Giving Pledge specifically targets billionaires and those who would be billionaires were it not for their generosity. Current pledgers include the following:

Yuri Milner and Julia Milner

Scientists like Galileo and Einstein were Yuri Milner’s heroes when he was growing up. His education focused on theoretical physics, but his early career involved finance. Yuri has been an entrepreneur and investor since the late 1990s, specializing in high tech.

Yuri Milner has also invested in scientists more recently, beginning with his establishment of the Breakthrough Foundation in 2012. This organization offers prizes to scientists who make major discoveries in mathematics, physics, or the life sciences. Yuri Milner is known as a venture capitalist and philanthropist, engaging in two activities that are often thought to be opposites. However, he sees both of them as types of investments. An investor must make judgment calls about the value of a potential solution, whether it’s in science or business.

Jeff T. Green

Jeff T. Green was deeply affected by the experiences of a homeless man he met when he was 17. After spending hours listening to the man’s life story, Jeff wondered why this man was living on the streets while he had a more comfortable life. Jeff still had to worry about money from a young age, but he came to realize that the accumulation of things by itself is rarely the solution to life’s problems.

However, the combination of money, people, and time can provide solutions to common problems, especially in the form of education. Jeff plans to give away the vast majority of his wealth through his family foundation, Dataphilanthropy, so named for its focus on data-driven giving. Its mission is to deploy time, money, and human resources toward solving humanity’s most difficult problems at scale.

Jack and Renate Schuler

Jack Schuler served on the board of the Gates Foundation, which has made great contributions toward stopping the spread of AIDS in Africa. His firsthand experience with Bill Gates’ approach to philanthropy inspired him to found the Schuler Education Foundation in 2001. This organization helps provide underserved youth in the Chicago area with education at selective liberal arts colleges. Jack’s family agrees with his decision to give all of his wealth to the foundation. It will be required to spend all of Schuler’s money within 30 years of his death. The foundation recently created an initiative to award funds to higher learning institutions that increase the enrollment of undocumented students and individuals who are eligible for Pell grants.

Richard Branson and Joan Branson

Richard Branson never set out to make money when he was young. He was only trying to make a difference by building things he could be proud of, including Student magazine and Virgin Galactic. Branson’s various companies became successful largely because the public liked what they created. Branson and Joan realized that material possessions didn’t mean that much to them after two of their homes were destroyed.

Branson created his nonprofit organization, Virgin Unite, which develops entrepreneurial solutions to global problems. He spends about 80 percent of his time on these philanthropic efforts, including conflict resolution, reduction of carbon emissions, and environmental preservation. The Bransons’ children support their decision to give away most of their wealth to Virgin Unite.

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