In a letter to their newborn daughter Max this week, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan pledged to give away 99 percent of their wealth — currently estimated at over $45 billion — to charitable causes over the course of their lifetimes. The two aren’t the first to break the giving barrier. A handful of public figures have already pledged large parts of their massive wealth to the nonprofit sector as well, and the list grows longer each year. In Zuckerberg and Chan’s case, the duo have promised to organize the money into a specific fund, which will then be distributed to various causes.
“Our society has an obligation to invest now to improve the lives of all those coming into this world, not just those already here,” Zuckerberg explained. “[...] For your generation to live in a better world, there is so much more our generation can do.” Zuckerberg wrote that the couple would be establishing the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to “advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation” by giving away nearly all of their $45 billion in Facebook shares.
“We know this is a small contribution compared to all the resources and talents of those already working on these issues,” Zuckerberg added. “But we want to do what we can, working alongside many others.”
Chan and Zuckerberg aren’t the only ones feeling generous. These public figures have also promised to give up the majority of their net worth in order to further global charity initiatives.
The inventor of Spanx has amassed a fortune of over $1 billion selling smoothing and shaping undergarments to women over the past 15 years. Thankfully, she’s more than eager to use it to lend a hand to her fellow women around the world by providing increased access to education and work opportunities.
“Since I was a little girl, I have always wanted to help women,” Blakely told CNN in June, joking, “In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would have started with their butts."
The business magnate, philanthropist, and former New York City mayor has long been a believer in giving up his estimated $40 billion net worth to charitable causes, including supporting the Environmental Defense Fund. Over the past decade alone, Bloomberg Philanthropies has donated billions to various other organizations, including the World Lung Foundation, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and the Cancer Support Community, a free network of local community support chapters for those living with cancer.
“If you want to do something for your children and show how much you love them, the single best thing — by far — is to support organizations that will create a better world for them and their children,” Bloomberg said in an open letter to The Giving Pledge, a list of groups and individuals who have committed to using their enormous wealth for charitable causes.
Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya has managed to pull in a whopping $1.4 billion over the past decade, selling strained yogurt to the masses as fast as the fan favorite can fly off grocery store shelves. A native of Erzincan, Turkey, Ulukaya immigrated to the United States in 1994, and founded his now-famous brand just years later after taking a few business courses at nearby college. These days, Ulukaya is enjoying partial retirement and giving his billions away to help combat famine in Somalia and to support Kurdish refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war.
“I have always planned to give most of what I had,” Ulukaya said in a statement this past May. “Growing up, I watched my mother give to those who needed and it came from the most amazing place in her heart.”
Bill And Melinda Gates
Perhaps best known as the co-founder of computer behemoth Microsoft, Bill Gates and his wife Melinda — who's also a computer whiz, and a Duke MBA to boot — have firmly established themselves over the years as the precedent for wealth-generated philanthropic efforts. Since establishing the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, the couple has poured billions of dollars (much of it from their personal coffers, which top out at around $80 billion) into a variety of causes, ranging from education to global health to disaster relief efforts around the world.
“My wife and I had a long dialogue about how we were going to take the wealth that we’re lucky enough to have and give it back in a way that’s most impactful to the world,” Gates told The Telegraph in a 2013 interview. “It doesn’t relate to any particular religion; it’s about human dignity and equality … the golden rule that all lives have equal value and we should treat people as we would like to be treated.”
Patrice And Precious Motsepe
Billionaire and African Rainbow Minerals founder Patrice Motsepe isn’t just wealthy. He’s unique for one very important reason: He is South Africa’s only black billionaire. Motsepe and his wife Precious have pledged to donate half of their $2.2 billion fortune in order to help eliminate the staggering wealth disparity between the country’s white and black population by establishing educational initiatives that help bridge the gap and create independence.
“It has always been part of our culture and tradition to assist and care for less fortunate and marginalized members of our communities,” Motsepe told CNN in July this year. “This culture is also embodied in the spirit and tradition of Ubuntu [the South African philosophy which means, ‘I am because you are’].”
Hollywood director George Lucas always seems to have a project or two up his sleeve. Luckily, a good number of those projects happen to be charitable ones. In 2010, he sealed the deal by signing the Giving Pledge and promising to dole out over half of his $5 billion to various initiatives.
In an open letter to The Giving Pledge campaign, Lucas explained,
I am dedicating the majority of my wealth to improving education. It is the key to the survival of the human race. We have to plan for our collective future — and the first step begins with the social, emotional, and intellectual tools we provide to our children. As humans, our greatest tool for survival is our ability to think and to adapt — as educators, storytellers, and communicators our responsibility is to continue to do so.
Once dubbed the “most powerful woman in health care” by Forbes, Epic Systems (a healthcare software company) founder and CEO Judith Faulkner has also pledged to give up the majority of her $2.6 billion fortune to those in need.
“Many years ago I asked my young children what two things they needed from their parents,” Faulkner wrote in a letter to The Giving Pledge in May this year. “They said ‘food and money’ [and] I told them ‘roots and wings’. My goal in pledging 99% of my wealth to philanthropy is to help others with roots — food, warmth, shelter, healthcare, education — so they too can have wings.”
Manoj Bhargava isn’t just the CEO of 5-Hour Energy — he’s a prime example of someone who’s used their sudden and incredible wealth as a stepping stone for others, rather than themselves. Born in Lucknow, India, Bhargava attended Princeton University for one year in 1972, before returning to India to become a monk.
Twelve years later, Bhargava hopped on a plane back to the United States, where he dallied in a variety of working-class jobs before launching his monstrously successful energy supplement company in 2009. He hasn’t looked back since, except to pledge 99 percent of his $1.5 billion to those less fortunate than himself, and to fund a variety of inventive endeavors that will fight poverty through creative technological measures (such as clean energy bikes and sea water purification).
“Talks don’t help anyone out of poverty — Awareness doesn’t reduce pollution, grow food or heal the sick … these take doing,” Bhargava told Business Standard in October this year.