- Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg all have committed to giving their children relatively modest inheritances and to giving almost all of their wealth to charitable causes.
- Among the top four richest billionaires, Jeff Bezos is the latest to establish a charitable foundation.
- Bezos, No. 1 on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, has announced that his fund will focus on homeless families and education in low-income communities.
In the race to become the world’s first minted trillionaire, Jeff Bezos has a solid lead over runner-up Bill Gates. As for the third and fourth spots, the net worths of Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg are practically neck-and-neck, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. For people keeping score, four out of the top five world’s richest people are Americans, Zuckerberg’s wealth now tops Buffett’s and the majority of these wealthy people have gained their wealth via technology companies.
Among the world’s top billionaires, there’s a competition secondary to amassing the world’s wealth: Giving it all away. A common thread among the self-made billionaires — aside from their massive fortunes — is generosity and commitment to philanthropy. But they don’t all give equally.
Click to see the celebrities like Buffett who donate millions to charity.
Bill Gates and Warren Buffett: The Giving Pledge
Furthering their commitment to philanthropy, Bill and Melinda Gates created the Giving Pledge alongside their friend and fellow billionaire-philanthropist Warren Buffett in 2010. Buffett has long maintained that he will give away more than 99 percent of his wealth, which is currently $82.1 billion. He routinely makes charitable gifts to his foundations and the foundations for each of his three children. Of the top billionaires, Buffett is leading in the percentage of wealth he’s giving away.
Bill Gates: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Last year, Bill Gates donated $4.6 billion worth of Microsoft shares, about 5 percent of his $94.9 billion fortune. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been Gates’ primary focus since he left his day job at Microsoft in 2008 and stepped down as chairman of the board in 2014. As of the fourth quarter of 2016, the foundation has granted $41.3 billion in charitable donations since its establishment in 2000.
Mark Zuckerberg: The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
At 34, Facebook’s CEO is the youngest of the super-rich, and Zuckerberg also seems to be following the playbook of the super-rich. Buffett, Gates and Zuckerberg have all committed to giving their children modest inheritances relative to their massive fortunes.
Zuckerberg’s money will largely go to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which he founded with his wife, Priscilla Chan. The LLC is committed to “supporting science through basic biomedical research and education through personalized learning,” and the couple pledged 99 percent of their Facebook shares — worth about $45 billion when their daughter was born in 2015, or a little more than half his current net worth of $82.1 billion.
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Jeff Bezos: Bezos Day One Fund
Previously, Jeff Bezos’ attitude toward charitable giving was the most elusive among the billionaires’ club. Bezos had never publicly discussed what he would do with his money. But in January, he and his wife, MacKenzie, donated $33 million to TheDream.us, a nonprofit that provides scholarships to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children.
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Then, on Sept. 13, 2018, Bezos announced via Twitter the establishment of the Bezos Day One Fund. The Amazon CEO said that to start, $2 billion in funding would focus on:
- Funding existing nonprofits that help homeless families
- Creating a net work of full-scholarship, Montessori-inspired preschools in low-income communities
For Bezos, who has a net worth of $164 billion according to Bloomberg, $2 billion is just 1.2 percent of his wealth. He is the only one of the top four American billionaires who has not signed the Giving Pledge.Photo by Cliff Owen/AP/REX/Shutterstock
Demonstrators protest against Amazon and Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, outside of the hotel where the Economic Club of Washington is having their Milestone Celebration in Washington. Bezos said Thursday that he is giving $2 billion to start the Bezos Day One Fund which will open preschools in low-income neighborhoods and give money to nonprofits that helps homeless families
Jeff Bezos Charitable Fund, Washington, USA – 13 Sep 2018
In his letter announcing the Bezos Day One Fund over the span of several tweets, he said it would “begin with a commitment of $2 bill,” implying the $2 billion could just be the beginning:
It’s likely a few zeros are separating you from the mega-rich, but you can still donate your money to qualified organizations — and get rewarded with an IRS tax deduction.
Click to keep reading about the late John McCain’s more than $10 million in charitable donations.
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All net worths are according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.