Would You Give Away Half of Everything?

You’ve heard about  Warren Buffett and Bill Gates trying to get their fellow billionaires to give away half their money to charity? Well, now their challenge is resonating outside the United States. Twelve new magnates have joined the Buffett-Gates “Giving Pledge” bringing the total to 102.

Who are they? Richard Branson, the Virgin Airlines eccentric; David Sainsbury, the super market tycoon; Hasso Plattner, German founder of SAP, the software giant; Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian ; Vladimir Potanin, a nickel mining magnate. There are two Africans now on the list —  Mo Ibrahim, a mobile phone billionaire who previously spoinsored  a cash prize for retired African leaders who did a good job in office; and Patrice Motsepe, a South African mining boss.Joining them is one Malaysian, Tan Chee Yioun, and one Indian, Azim Premji, a technology tycoon. According to Forbes, there were 1223 billionaires on the planet in 2012. Surprisingly, Buffett and Gates could find no takers in some of the world’s fastest growing economies – Mexico, Brazil or China.

What about giving overall? No question — the recession has put a hot on giving. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, the top 50 donors committed a total of $7.4-billion to charity in 2012. The median gift was $49.6-million, down significantly from 2007’s high of $74.7-million.Most of the money went to big, elite institutions. Seventy-two percent of the dollars pledged supported higher education, arts and culture, hospitals, and private foundations. One encouraging sign is that younger billionaires are joining the ranks of the world’s most munificent people: Among the five top philanthropists last year, three were couples under 40. The youngest was Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook co-founder, who is 28, and his 27-year-old wife, Priscilla Chan.