The Giving Pledge. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett made it famous ten years ago. The idea was that billionaires would pledge half of their wealth to charitable causes during their lifetime or at death.
The list was noteworthy. People like Ted Turner, Michael Bloomberg, Charles Feeney, George Soros and Oprah Winfrey all showed up.
Marc Gunther, in his article “Good Intentions” in June’s Chronicle of Philanthropy, noted that while there was an initial burst of enthusiasm, only 204 families have signed the pledge.
Giving Pledge failure?
Gunther pointed out that many people thought the pledge would inspire a rise in charitable giving. But in truth, charitable giving remains stuck at 2% of GDP—as it has for decades.
Why is that?
I think there are lots of reasons.
For one thing, rich, powerful people don’t like being told what to do. In the article, even Buffett is quoted as saying, “I don’t like being preached to. I don’t like to preach to others.”
Generosity first starts with gratitude, which in turn flows from humility. It’s the premise that God has blessed me and that my financial wealth is not purely the result of my superior acumen, talent, brains or skill. The Bible has always been clear:
“You may say to yourself, ‘My power and my own ability have gained this wealth for me,’ but remember that the Lord your God gives you the power to gain wealth….” (Deut. 8:17-18a)
Generosity and transformation
True generosity starts with a transformation of the heart. People can have any number of motivations for signing a pledge, but that action cannot produce heart transformation.
And let’s face it: making a gift at death involves no real risk. Giving while you’re living starts with some element of risk. It starts with asking the question of how much is enough.
When we know that we’ve been wonderfully blessed, we want to share that with others. Jesus commanded his followers to treat others the same way God treats us: “But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.” (Luke 6:35)
Until people experience the transformational power of generosity in their own lives, their giving will only remain philanthropy. Generosity goes beyond dollar amounts or percentages to the way we live our whole lives.
Photo by Nastuh Abootalebi on Unsplash
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Published July 29, 2019