The Giving Pledge, the effort launched in 2010 by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett to encourage the world's mega-wealthy to devote at least half their wealth to philanthropy, saw a significant increase in signatories in 2012, as well as at least one effort to bring greater transparency to the campaign.
The additional visibility was a welcome development, coming as it did after Carlos Slim Helu, the wealthiest man in the world, announced in 2011 that he wouldn't be signing the pledge. In April, the campaign announced that twelve more families or individuals had agreed to participate. They included hedge fund manager Bill Ackman and his wife, Karen; businessman and film producer Steve Bing; Home Depot co-founder and Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur M. Blank; Canadian-American businessman Edgar M. Bronfman; hedge fund manager Glenn Dubin and his wife, Eva; Texas businessman Red McCombs and his wife, Charline; British-American venture capitalist Michael Moritz and his wife, novelist Harriet Heyman; South African-American entrepreneur Elon Musk; SAS co-founder John Sall and his wife, Ginger; Broadcom co-founder Henry Samueli and his wife, Susan; real estate developer John A. Sobrato and his wife, Susan; and MBI founder Ted Stanley and his wife, Vada.
Another group of pledgers was announced in September, bringing the total number of participants to ninety-two. That cohort included entrepreneur and 5-Hour Energy founder Manoj Bhargava; Canadian businessman Charles R. Bronfman; Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert and his wife, Jennifer; Netflix founder Reed Hastings and his wife, Patty Quillin; Progressive Insurance chair Peter B. Lewis; Intel co-founder Gordon Moore and his wife, Betty; private equity investor Jonathan M. Nelson; Argentine-American real estate developer Jorge M. Perez and his wife, Darlene; cable TV pioneer Leonard Tow and his wife, Claire; FlightSafety International founder Albert Lee Ueltschi; and private equity investor Romesh Wadhwani and his wife, Kathleen. "We've said from the beginning that this is a long-term effort, so it's exciting to see continued progress over the last two years," said Bill Gates on announcing the latter group of signatories.
According to many pledgers, one of the greatest benefits of membership in the exclusive club is participation in annual private meetings with other signatories to discuss emerging trends in philanthropy. In 2012, that meeting was held in Santa Barbara and included sessions on education reform, poverty alleviation, medical research, international giving, and effective collaboration. At the time, the Economist reported that a session on impact investing had been especially well received and may lead to additional meetings focused on the topic.
Now that the campaign has had a few years to establish itself, others are starting to pay attention to its progress and potential to turbocharge philanthropy -- in the U.S. and around the globe. To that end, in August the Foundation Center launched Eye on the Giving Pledge, a Web resource featuring in-depth profiles of new and existing participants as well as data on their geographic distribution and giving interests. "The Giving Pledge has tremendous potential," said Foundation Center president Bradford Smith. "And in a world where philanthropists now achieve celebrity status and new forms of philanthropy emerge at an extraordinary clip, it's more important than ever to keep pace with giving trends and make sense of it all. Good data and transparency are key to understanding philanthropy's impact on the world."