Today Bill Gates and Warren Buffetts’ Giving Pledge announced the addition of 12 new signatories. These are some of the world’s highest profile mega-rich, all of whom are promising to give away at least half of their wealth to good causes over their lifetimes.
Among the new pledges are five names from the UK:
This is potentially a hugely exciting development for philanthropy in the UK. One of the things that often seems to hold back the growth of major giving here is the reluctance of millionaires and billionaires to be open about their giving. This may be for cultural reasons (we Brits really don’t like talking about money- it’s frightfully gauche…) or it may be due to concerns about adverse publicity or cynicism from the general public about their motivations- who knows?
What is encouraging about today’s announcement is that it suggests that at least some of our wealthiest people (who are already known to be philanthropic by those who follow these things) are willing to put their heads above the parapet and make a public declaration of their charitable ambitions. The Giving Pledge may have played a key role here by having amassed sufficient signatories in the US that there is a sense of “safety in numbers”, and UK donors (and those elsewhere) are happy to be public about their giving in a way they would not have been in the past.
CAF has always thought that there is real power in philanthropists being willing to act as role models for others and establish social norms around the relationship between wealth and giving, and we have said in the past that a UK version of the Giving Pledge would be an incredibly positive thing. Today’s announcement is therefore something that we really welcome, and I for one hope that it is the start of a revolution in the way that UK philanthropists approach the visibility of their giving.
It was reported in many of the papers today that the leaders of all three main political parties have agreed to sign up to Roland Rudd’s “Legacy 10” campaign. This means that they have each pledged to leave 10% of their will to charity. The Legacy 10 initiative is closely linked to a new tax incentive due to come in in April, whereby anyone leaving 10% or more of their net estate to charity can benefit from a reduced rate of inheritance tax (36% rather than 40%), although the campaign is supposed to be broad enough to encompass even those who will be unaffected by the new measure.
Leaving aside specific concerns about the new tax break (namely that it will only apply to a small number of estates, and it doesn’t seem to act as incentive for those who weren’t already intending to leave a charitable bequest), there is a definite positive aspect to this story. The fact that three senior political figures- who spend much of their time at each others’ throats- have put their differences to one side and presented a united front in favour of a charitable giving initiative is an interesting and potentially powerful precedent. There is a lot of talk in policy circles about the importance of role models and social norms, and of the government showing leadership, so it is good to see some practical action that fleshes out this talk.