The billionaire challenge

Philanthropists frequently aspire to be innovators and catalysts. Well, now they have a chance to step up to the challenge—by directing money toward programs that work and away from those that don’t and by being disciplined enough to hold themselves accountable for real results.

Warren Buffett, teaming with Bill and Melinda Gates, has challenged the nation’s billionaires to give away at least half of their net worth to charity—potentially totaling $600-billion.

Billionaires including Eli and Edythe Broad, John and Ann Doerr, Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest, and John and Tashia Morgridge have taken the pledge, ushering in a game-changing moment for philanthropy.

Donating lots of money is a necessary first step, but it is only the first step. The real issue is having clarity on what success looks like and how money can help create change, before springing into check-writing mode. If philanthropists aren’t willing to admit and explore their own failures, it’s impossible to learn and improve.

The good news is that a growing number of philanthropists are indeed taking these questions seriously. And these same lessons apply to any grant maker who aspires to maximize his or her impact.

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