MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
Forty U.S. billionaires made a big announcement today. They pledged to give at least half of their wealth to charity, either during their lifetimes or after death. And that could give a big boost to nonprofits, which have suffered from the recent economic downturn, as NPR's Pam Fessler reports.
PAM FESSLER: Buffett says the purpose of the public pledge isn't just to increase how much these people give - many had already planned to give a lot - but to inspire others to give as well.
WARREN BUFFETT: So it'll be more philanthropy and smarter philanthropy in the future is the goal.
FESSLER: The pledge idea came about in a series of private meetings that Gates, Buffett and other philanthropists had over the past year on the future of charitable giving. Bloomberg, like several on the list, said he made the pledge because he has more money than he could ever use.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: And if you really care about your family, I've always thought that the best thing to do is to make the world better for your kids and your grandkids rather than just give them some money.
FESSLER: It's up to each billionaire to decide what causes they want to support and when. It could be decades before some of the actual donations, which involve hundreds of billions of dollars, are made. That has some people concerned.
PABLO EISENBERG: Everybody's focused on all that money, but no one's talked about the quality of giving.
FESSLER: Pablo Eisenberg is with the Public Policy Institute at Georgetown University.
EISENBERG: Who will it go to? Will it go to those who are in most need in our society?
FESSLER: Tom Tierney, head of The Bridgespan Group, which advises nonprofits, says it will be some time before the impact of these pledges on specific charities is known.
TOM TIERNEY: But there is no question that 40 wealthy, prominent individuals and families stepping forward in this way is an extraordinary event, and it begins to force people to wrestle with the question: Well, should I do that?
FESSLER: Pam Fessler, NPR News, Washington.
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