Billionaires Lead The Way

“It’s an established principle that there’s something called leadership by example,” said Peter G. Peterson, a former Nebraskan and financier who plans to give more than half his net worth of an estimated $2-billion back to charity. Peterson, along with fellow Omahans, Warren Buffett and Walter Scott Jr., is among 40 billionaires (and counting) who pledged a percentage of their riches to charity.

The idea stems from Buffett and Bill Gates. In June they asked individuals and families to publicly commit to give away at least half of their wealth within their lifetimes or after their deaths. Their goal: $600 billion. If their campaign succeeds, it could change the face of philanthropy. This has a ripple effect on so many levels. One only has to question if that’s something we can also do, regardless of our financial status. If the “standard” of giving is 10%, you have to be impressed with the percentage that billionaires are giving back to mankind—from 50% upwards to the 99% Buffett has pledged to give back.

Buffett wants to “set an example” and “influence others to give.” Little may he have known it’s not just the billionaires he’s influencing. In 2009 Americans charitable giving fell 3.6% to $303.8 billion last year, down from $315 billion in 2008, according to Giving USA. In 2008, charitable giving fell 2%. This charitable movement should be making us ask ourselves, “What am I willing to do now or upon my death to support charities that mean most to me?” After all, we know we can’t “take it with us.” I’ve never seen a U-Haul hitched up to a hearse!