August 3, 2012

New Foundation Center Tool Tracks ‘Giving Pledge’ Donors

Eye on the Giving Pledge profiles 81 who have pledged to donate most of their assets

Bill and Melinda Gates have pledged to donate most of their assets to charity. (Photo: AP) Bill and Melinda Gates have pledged to donate most of their assets to charity. (Photo: AP)

American philanthropy is rapidly changing, with implications for social causes not always clear.

A prime example is the 81 ultrawealthy Americans—so far—with a combined net worth of some $400 billion, who have joined Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates in pledging to commit the majority of their assets to philanthropic causes.

Over time, commitments by the current participants in the Giving Pledge could result in an estimated $200 billion or more to charity, according to Foundation Center. This compares with 76,600 grantmaking foundations in the U.S. that currently hold an estimated $646 billion in assets and give $47 billion annually.

This week, the center rolled out a new tool on its website to monitor the pledgers’ activities as part of its 2020 strategic plan to encourage greater transparency in philanthropy.

Eye on the Giving Pledge contains profiles (a few still incomplete) of the 81 individuals and families who have signed the pledge to date. Each profile details the participant’s net worth, primary industry affiliation, giving interests, related foundations, charitable board service and philanthropic media coverage.

Of particular interest is the inclusion with each profile of an archive of 990 forms, which charitable foundations must file with the IRS every year.

In addition, charts aggregate demographic trends in participation, including geographic distribution, industry affiliation, net worth and age of the pledgers.

“The Giving Pledge has tremendous potential,” said Bradford Smith, the center’s president, said in a statement. “And in a world where philanthropists now achieve celebrity status and new forms of philanthropy emerge at an extraordinary clip, it’s more important than ever to keep pace with giving trends and make sense of it all.

“Good data and transparency are key to understanding philanthropy’s impact on the world.”

Pledge signers include Eli and Edythe Broad, Carl Icahn, David Rockefeller and Mark Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg made philanthropy news headlines two years ago when he signed the pledge after making a $100 million gift to Newark public schools. Bloomberg News reported Friday that Zuckerberg has fallen from the top 10 list of the world's wealthiest technology billionaires.

Because Giving Pledge participants are not bound by a specific timeline to make gifts, the Foundation Center’s Janet Camarena said in the statement, “Eye on the Giving Pledge provides a way to follow how those who have signed on are, through their foundations and personal giving, fulfilling their pledge.”

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