Over a year ago, in May 2009, word leaked to the press that the two richest men in America, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, had organized and presided over a confidential dinner meeting of billionaires in New York City. David Rockefeller was said to have been a host, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Oprah Winfrey to have been among those attending, and philanthropy to have been the main subject.
According to forbes,within that dinner meeting, Gates and Buffett started what can be called the biggest fundraising drive in history. They’d welcome donors of any kind. But their direct target is billionaires, whom the two men wish to see greatly raise the amounts they give to charities, of any and all kinds. That wish was not mathematically framed at the time of the New York meeting. But as two other U.S. dinners were held (though not leaked), Buffett and Gates and his wife, Melinda, set the goal: They are driving to get the super-rich, starting with the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, to pledge — literally pledge — at least 50% of their net worth to charity during their lifetimes or at death.
Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have been leaders by example to others of extreme wealth since they committed major parts of their fortune and energy to changing the world while they were still alive. With the just-launched Giving Pledge, they’re making that leadership explicit and asking other billionaires to commit at least half of their wealth to philanthropic causes. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has become the latest to take the commitment, and will give away at least half of his approximately $13.5 billion fortune