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Five UK philanthropists sign up to billionaire Giving Pledge as part of international expansion

Five UK philanthropists sign up to billionaire Giving Pledge as part of international expansion

News (International, UK)

Richard and Joan Branson are among five UK billionaires who signed up to the Giving Pledge, co-founded by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, on 19 February2013. 

Along with the Bransons, mobile communications entrepreneurs John Caudwell and Dr Mo Ibrahim, hedge fund manager Christopher Hohn, and businessman David Sainsbury have all made the public commitment to give away at least half their wealth as part of the first international cohort of billionaires who have made the pledge.

Although the Giving Pledge was founded as a US-based initiative, there has been consistent interest from people all over the world in the pledge.

Bill Gates, pledge co-founder and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “There are amazing examples of giving happening around the world — and not just among the wealthy — that we can learn from, and I am excited about the conversations and ideas that will happen thanks to this impressive group of international philanthropists. In many cases, their perspectives on giving will be informed by living much closer to the areas of greatest need.”

Seven other non-US philanthropists also signed up to the Giving Pledge. Alongside South African Patrice and Precious Motsepe’s pledge, reported by Philanthropy Impact on February 11th 2013, the other pledges have come from Andrew and Nicola Forrest (Australia), Hasso Plattner (Germany), Azim Premji (India), Vladimir Potanin (Russia), Victor Pinchuk (Ukraine), and Vincent Tan Chee Yioun (Malaysia).

In his pledge letter, David Sainsbury wrote: “The approach of my wife, Susie, and I to philanthropy is very simple. We do not believe that spending any more money on ourselves or our family would add anything to our happiness. However, using it to support social progress we have found deeply fulfilling. We focus on a few areas which require investment and which we care about deeply, and seeing these projects develop and bring major benefits to people has been a life-enhancing experience.”

In their announcement, Richard and Joan Branson said: “We want the value created by the Virgin Group to be used to invest in new collaborative approaches to addressing issues, where business, governments and not-for-profits join forces to create a healthy, equitable and peaceful world for future generations to enjoy.”

They added: “We look forward to working with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in expanding the number of people who are part of this pledge outside America.”

The pledge letters are available on the Giving Pledge website.

Research from the Institute for Philanthropy, which has offices in the UK and the US, into HNWIs’ attitudes to the Giving Pledge suggested that knowledge of the high-profile campaign is far from universal. Only 55.2% of a survey of 38 HNWI donors in the UK, US, Canada, mainland Europe and Mexico, had heard of the pledge. Surprisingly, half of those who had not heard of the pledge were from North America, with the other half from the UK.

Four of the respondents, whose annual average giving is $1.5m, have already adopted the principles of the Giving Pledge. They were motivated by a “wish to devote the majority of wealth to good causes” rather than a “wish to encourage other people to become more involved in philanthropy.”

The most common reason for not signing up to the giving pledge or adopting its principles was a desire to remain private.

Daisy Wakefield, who works in research and communications for the Institute for Philanthropy, suggested that those who are already known for their wealth, such as Bill Gates or Richard Branson, may be more willing to come out philanthropically in the media.

She said: “It’s interesting to note that the Pledge began as an initiative from individuals who understood that they can leverage their public profile and media status, not just their money, to create change both in the commercial sectors and the world of philanthropy. Understanding this, as Richard Branson surely does, and being comfortable with it may give you confidence to raise your head above the parapet.”

In general privacy was more of a concern for respondents from the UK than those in the US.

Wakefield continued: "The media question is really important. One respondent said that UK media coverage of philanthropy is pretty negative and wondered if the Giving Pledge can help introduce a more positive tone. At the moment many philanthropists don't want to risk being portrayed negatively."

A desire for privacy and awareness of the campaign were not the only factors that affected respondents’ attitudes to the Giving Pledge though.

Wakefield said: "The Giving Pledge is important in raising the profile of philanthropy but many respondents expressed the view that it is much more important to give strategically and have an impact than to focus on the amount given. Others said it is important that people should come to philanthropy in their own time and not feel pressured. Those who really want to become donors seem to be more focussed and committed."

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