Idea: Pass those billions to charity

If you are an American with billions on hand, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett want to hear from you. Gates, a co-founder of Microsoft Corp., and Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., are campaigning to get other American billionaires to give at least half their wealth to charity.

Patty Stonesifer, former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that Gates and Buffett have been campaigning for the past year to get others to donate the bulk of their wealth.

The two friends and philanthropic colleagues are asking people to pledge to donate either during their lifetime or at the time of their death. They estimate their efforts could generate $600 billion in charitable giving. In 2009, American philanthropies received a total of about $300 billion in donations, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

"It's a stretch to see how they're going to get to the $600 billion figure," said Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle. She noted that only 17 people on the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest people in America are also on the Chronicle's list of the most generous American donors.

The handful of billionaires approached so far have embraced the campaign, said Stonesifer, a close friend of Gates. Four wealthy couples have already announced their pledges: Los Angeles philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad; Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest of Philadelphia; John and Ann Doerr of Menlo Park, Calif.; and John and Tasha Mortgridge of San Jose, Calif.

Buffett said in a letter introducing the idea that he couldn't be happier with his decision in 2006 to give 99 percent of his roughly $46 billion fortune to charity.

Idea: Pass those billions to charity 06/17/10 [Last modified: Thursday, June 17, 2010 3:01am]

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