Billionaires Club

The news that Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are challenging their fellow billionaires to give generously is getting a lot of media attention. Much like the prior landmarks of the expansion of organized philanthropy (e.g. Rockefeller, Carnegie, and others at the transition from the 19th to the 20th century) the transition from the 20th to the 21st Century will witness another HUGE expansion of philanthropic giving. Are we ready for it? Philanthropy can do much good. But it can also be opportunity squandered if the funds are not 1) seen as social capital invested for the common good, 2) aimed at identifying and solving root causes of problems, and 3) monitored carefully with respect to what can truly be accomplished. The infusion of large sums of philanthropic dollars can have a dramatic effect – skewing the interests and missions of the recipients of this largesse in ways that could take decades to recover. There are vast problems we need to be solving – and the funds can be extremely effective – or not. It will take bold leadership and it will take thoughtful, humble, leadership — these characteristics are actually not incompatible. Philanthropic leadership need to be bold enough to challenge the status quo and question deeply cherished assumptions. ANd, at the same time, philanthropic leadership must be humble enough to question its OWN cherished assumptions and deeply help beliefs. I wish the Billionaires CLub much success.