Guidance From The Greats: Lessons From The World’s Top Philanthropists

Some of the world’s top philanthropist billionaires like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates will be remembered for generations to come not only for their business empires but also for their impactful worldwide philanthropic work. What advice do these greats have for budding philanthropists?

World renowned philanthropist Andrew Carnegie once said: “No man can become rich without himself enriching others [as] the man who dies rich dies disgraced.” Today, many of the world’s top and wealthiest individuals have taken Carnegie’s standard for philanthropy to heart by giving their wealth to multiple causes.

Bill Gates, principal founder of Microsoft Corporation, is famous for using the advances of science to benefit the poor. Over his lifetime, Gates has given over $50 billion to various worldwide philanthropic causes. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) was launched in 2000 with the primary aim of enhancing global healthcare and reducing extreme poverty around the world.

Gates believes that giving is a responsibility for those who are privileged. “[Giving is] a basic responsibility of anyone with a lot of money,” he says. “Once you’ve taken care of yourself and your children, the best use of extra wealth is to give it back to society.”

However, he does not believe giving should be restricted to the wealthy and maintains that philanthropy is truly impactful when people make sacrifices to give. “My [giving] is not impressive,” he explains. “What’s impressive is people who give [who] have to sacrifice something to give.” Gates adds that ordinary citizens should use resources, like the Internet, to make their philanthropy more effective. “Anyone with an Internet connection, [some money] to give, and the time to do a little digging can become a more-informed donor. These days, effective philanthropy is for everyone.” Gates is probably one of the top worldwide philanthropist, and sets an example for us all.

Warren Buffet, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, is considered one of the most successful investors and top philanthropists in the world. Since 2000, Buffet has given 71% of his fortune, or $46 billion, to many worldwide philanthropic causes. Buffett founded the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation in 1964 and has made substantial investments into efforts to improve access to family planning, reproductive health, contraceptives and safe abortions on a global scale.

In Buffett’s free online course, called Giving With Purpose, potential philanthropists around the world are encouraged to examine their entire ‘toolkit’ and question what else they have to give besides money. For example, time, professional skills or outreach into social networks may prove to be valuable contributions. Giving With Purpose also encourages people to contribute to organisations that are geared toward making lasting social changes. He encourages people to invest in initiatives that are sustainable and not solely dependent on monetary donations.

In their work together, these top worldwide philanthropists , Gates and Buffett, demonstrate the importance of inspiring others to use their privileges in positive ways. In 2010, Gates and Buffett established the Giving Pledge as a way to motivate the world’s wealthiest individuals to give the majority of their fortunes to worldwide philanthropic causes. Today, 184 billionaire families or individuals have committed to the pledge, inspiring many budding philanthropists around the world. Gates views the Pledge as the beginning of a multigenerational philanthropic effort, saying: “This is about building a wonderful tradition of top world focused philanthropy that will ultimately help the world become a much better place.”


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