The Gates’ challenging "philanthropic conspiracy"

Bill Gates and Melinda Gates recently received the J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding. Visit after visit to remote spots around the globe has compelled the Gateses to use their $35 billion foundation to target global health and international development.

Ann Stock, assistant secretary of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the State Department says, "Bill and Melinda Gates exemplify shared responsibility. They are stepping up to the plate and charting a new path for philanthropic giving. They are putting their giving all together in a way we haven't seen before."

And this year, the couple and fellow billionaire Warren Buffett threw out a challenge to other wealthy people to give at least half their worth to charity. Asked about the gambit, Bill Gates laughed, saying: "A group has chosen to work together and decide how to get more effective. ... We are amazed that 40 have signed up so far."

Melinda Gates then smiled at the effect of their philanthropic conspiracy.


Millennium Development Goals progress

What is the progress in the 10 years since the United Nations created the Millennium Development Goals, eight international goals to improve social and economic conditions in the world's poorest countries? An opinion by Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation:

The millennium goals themselves embody impatient optimism. They recognize how much there is to be done, while at the same time signaling the scale and scope of the world's ambition. The world is not called on to conjure progress from a void. Instead, it is called on to learn from very real progress on nearly all the goals, to expand it, and to speed it up.

One refrain I hear is that we are off track on many of the goals. That statement is technically accurate. Not every country will meet every goal, and there is a risk that some of the global goals won't be met. But that binary outlook -- with total success on one side, total failure on the other, and people on all sides blaming each other -- obscures extraordinary progress driven by extraordinary people across the globe.

Take the goal for child mortality. The goal is a two-thirds reduction, and we may not reach it by 2015. But have we failed when 4 million children who would have died in 1990 will survive in 2010? Have we failed when we have reduced polio, a crippling childhood disease, by 99 percent in the past 20 years?

Another complaint I hear a lot is that progress isn't spread evenly. Some people dismiss the fact that 1.3 billion people have lifted themselves out of poverty by pointing out that most of them live in China and India, not in African countries.

I believe that when poor people lift themselves out of poverty, we ought to celebrate, no matter where they happen to live. … All lives have equal value, and I am not comfortable comparing one person's suffering to that of another.

While it's true that some countries are reducing poverty more quickly than others -- and some, sadly, have moved backwards -- eight African countries have already achieved the goal on poverty reduction, and several more are on schedule to do so by 2015. Across nearly every goal, there are inspiring examples of even the poorest countries making dramatic improvements in short periods of time.


Top 400 U.S. charities see billions less in donations

A new ranking of the nation's 400 biggest charities shows donations dropped by 11 percent overall last year the worst decline in 20 years since the Chronicle of Philanthropy began keeping a tally.

United Way and the Salvation Army continue to dominate the ranking, despite the 2009 declines.

"It shows that charities are really having a tough time, and these are some of the most successful charities in the United States," Chronicle Editor Stacy Palmer said. "Usually bigger charities are more resilient, so that's the part that is still surprising."

Only four charities in the top 10 reported increased contributions over last year, including Catholic Charities USA, AmeriCares Foundation, Feed the Children, and Food for the Poor. Habitat for Humanity also had some of the largest growth in cash donations over that time.


Will India solve their own social ills?

Narayana Murthy said, “The power of money is to give it away.”

It is also said that if India’s richest 100 donated their fortunes the way Warren Buffet and Bill Gates did – over 250 billion dollars, a quarter of the Indian GDP would be generated.

Indian corporate history is replete with business icons who’ve changed the philanthropic behavior of their countrymen, encouraging them to step up the amounts they give. The leadership, diligence, foresight and wisdom a great entrepreneur demonstrates has the potential to dramatically shape a nation’s future.

Social commentator Santosh Desai, “Indians have always been generous people. Corporates can take a lead from the Tatas, who have institutionalized philanthropy, making it an act of corporate social responsibility and not charity.

Yash Birla, scion of the Birla empire says, “Keep in mind there’s always a higher purpose for your income.”

What is holding people back from giving? They don’t know how and who to give to. When it comes to a structured approach to philanthropy, most of them are found wanting.

Trust in another big factor why most wealthy people don’t loosen their purse strings. They are afraid their money wouldn’t reach the right channels. A reason, why big corporate houses build their own charitable foundations with the organizations.

Is India Inc. listening?

[Times Life]


U.S. Ranks Fifth in New Global Survey on Giving

The United States tied for fifth place in a new survey "World Giving Index 2010" prepared by Charities Aid Foundation on giving habits in 153 countries.

Australia and New Zealand tied for first place, followed by Canada and Ireland.

A country's overall ranking is based on the average score of three categories, donating money to an organization, volunteered time to an organization, and helping a stranger in the previous month. The results were based on data collected by Gallup's WorldView World Poll in March 2010.

Malta ranked first in giving money (83 percent), Turkmenistan in volunteering time (61 percent), and Liberia in helping strangers (76 percent).

"No one should take a critical view of the U.S. fifth place rank in this report," Janet Boyd, president of Charities Aid Foundation America, in Alexandria, Va., said in a statement. "But that also does not mean that we should be complacent as a nation when there is so much more that can be done."

The researchers also examined whether giving was tied more to wealth or happiness—and happiness won. The percentage of people who give correlates more with countries whose populations are more satisfied than countries with high gross domestic products.

[Source: Chronicle of Philanthropy article by Suzanne Perry]