August 10, 2010
Will the Giving Pledge affect Jewish causes?
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Stacy Palmer, the editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, suggested the pledge might not have such a great impact on other causes, either, since the first 40 to sign on are the “usual suspects” who already have pledged away more than half their money.
Lokey fits that profile. He had sold his company, Businesswire, to Buffett in 2008, so the two already were quite familiar with each other when Buffet called him.
“A few weeks ago, Warren called to ask if I would be interested in making this pledge,” Lokey said. “I told him that I had already pledged and given away everything. He said, ‘Yes, that is why I want you on board.’”
Other Jews on the list were in a similar position.
“I know of a number of Jewish philanthropists who have already made those provisions long before Gates’ plan,” said Phyllis Cook, a philanthropic adviser to several of the Jews who have signed on to the Giving Pledge.
The foundations of several of those on the list contacted by JTA confirmed that the pledge is not expected to change much about how the foundations will operate.
The question for the Jewish community is how to increase the share of money Jewish givers donate to Jewish causes.
Charendoff estimates that Jews gave between $4 billion and $5 billion to Jewish-centric causes last year. If the pledge were to inspire everyone on the Forbes list of 400 top givers to give away half their wealth, he estimates that some $600 billion would go into the philanthropic world. That compares to the $300 billion or so that was given out by all Americans last year, according to GivingUSA. More than 130 of those on the Forbes 400 are Jewish.
“I don’t believe that we have begun to tap the Jewish community in terms of the potential wealth that is out there,” Charendoff said.
The problem is that the Jewish community still behaves as if it has a monopoly on philanthropic dollars from Jewish givers, he said.
“Thirty years ago, if you were Jewish and a philanthropist and you wanted to be on a board, your realm of activity was probably going to be in the Jewish world,” Charendoff said. “Now we are competing with Carnegie Hall and the Met and Sloan Kettering. This is the big leagues, and we can’t play as if we are competing between the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League.”
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