I will never be a billionaire. But if I were, I hope I’d be like the 81 billionaires – ranging in age from 27 to 96 – who have committed to give the majority of their wealth to charity by taking the Giving Pledge. Each person who takes the Giving Pledge decides on the particular causes or organizations they want to support.
The latest group of billionaires who made the Giving Pledge last week includes Bill Ackman, founder of hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management. In his pledge letter, Ackman wrote:
“My earliest memories include my father’s exhortations about how important it is to give back. These early teachings were ingrained in me, and a portion of the first dollars I earned, I gave away. Over the years, the emotional and psychological returns I have earned from charitable giving have been enormous. The more I do for others, the happier I am.”
Founded by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates in 2010, the Giving Pledge focuses on billionaires but it seeks to inspire and encourage givers of all financial means and backgrounds. Thanks to innovative approaches and advances in technology, each of us, regardless of wealth, can make a lasting impact on the lives of others through donating to worthwhile organizations.
The Monthly Micro-Philanthropist
I consider myself a “micro-philanthropist” of sorts. I donate on a regular basis to FINCA, an anti-poverty organization that provides financial services to the world’s lowest-income entrepreneurs so they can create jobs, build assets and improve their standard of living. FINCA operates Village Banking programs in 21 countries in Africa, Eurasia, the Middle East and Latin America, serving over 900,000 people, 70% of whom are women. Through micro-loans from FINCA, families can invest in and build their own small businesses and income-earning capacity.
Donating to FINCA is easy by signing up for a regular monthly donation in whatever amount you choose, automatically charged to a credit card or withdrawn from a bank account. A monthly pledge of $10 can help provide a first loan for two new clients. UNICEF is another organization with a monthly giving program. By making monthly donations that are processed automatically, you can help these organizations reduce their costs and give them more proceeds to fund their programs.
eBay Giving Works
Speaking of UNICEF, they’re one of the nonprofit organizations you can support when you buy and sell items through eBay’s Giving Works program. eBay Giving Works partners with a non-profit service called MissionFish, which uses innovative technology to help nonprofits raise funds through online commerce.
As a seller on eBay, you can donate from 10 to 100% of your proceeds to organizations of your choice. You get extra exposure by being listed on eBay, the eBay Giving Works site, and the Missionfish site, and a receipt for every contribution you make will be available in your MissionFish account. As a buyer, you can search for items on the eBay Giving Works site that will benefit general causes (for example, Ending Poverty or Improving Education) or specific organizations that you’d like to support.
Cause Shop Online and Save Money
Through a site called GoodShop, you can “cause shop” online as a way to donate to charity for free AND save yourself some money in the process. GoodShop works with dozens of retailers and service providers – Apple, iTunes, Macy’s, Groupon, Travelocity, GoDaddy, Home Depot and many more – to donate a percentage of your purchase to a charity of your choice. Just choose your cause, then click on the merchants’ logos to shop online.
The merchants on GoodShop provide deals and coupons for GoodShop users, like free shipping and returns or discounts. With Mother’s Day around the corner, why not take advantage of the 15% discount being offered by 1-800-Flowers through GoodShop and donate 8% of your purchase price to a worthwhile cause?
What’s your favorite way to experience the emotional and psychological returns of being a micro-philanthropist?