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The founder of The Gift of Giving, Frank Callahan, with the latest in giving news and commentary.

Nov 13

Written by: Frank Callahan
11/13/2010 1:43 PM

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Robert Frank looks at the lives and culture of the wealthy.
 

More Billionaires Sign the Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge

Apparently, it’s hard to turn down America’s richest men when they ask for money.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett announced today that 40 signers, including at least 30 billionaires and other wealthy families, had officially made the Giving Pledge–a promise to give away more than half their fortunes.

Many of the names already were known, from Eli and Edythe Broad and Michael Bloomberg to Pierre and Pam Omidyar and Paul Allen. But the list also includes some notable new ones, especially from the world of finance: New York financier Ronald O. Perelman; Citigroup founder Sandy Weill and wife Joan; hedge-funders Julian Robertson Jr. and Jim Simons; and private-equity honcho David Rubenstein.

The technology sector also is well represented, by venture capitalist John Doerr and wife Anne; Pierre Omidyar and wife Pam; and Jeff Skoll.

The list includes a few old-money (or at least older-money) names: Barron Hilton and David Rockefeller. Still, almost all are self-made billionaires or near-billionaires.

The turnout is impressive, especially since the Gates-Buffett-sponsored pledge was just announced a month and a half ago.

Since some of the names already planned to give away half their fortune, the hard part will be persuading additional signers in the months to come. The Gates Foundation plans to hold small dinners in coming months in which signers will try to persuade potential givers to give their John Hancocks.

Some people may write off the pledge as a gimmick aimed at simply improving the PR of the super-rich, which could certainly use some improving. But the list could become a strong financial force for philanthropy, if for no other reason than peer pressure, publicity and the inspiring example of others.

America’s rich have been searching for new status symbols in the wake of the Great Recession. Yachts, private jets, seaside mansions are so 2007. But being wealthy enough and generous enough to get on the Giving Pledge list may quickly become the ultimate badge of status–both in the U.S. and abroad.

Do you think the pledge has been effective at raising additional charity dollars?

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