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In a recent interview, J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series and the recently published The Casual Vacancy, discussed being the first female writer to be placed on the Forbes billionaires list. She also discussed being “one of the very few people to take herself off that list by giving so much to charity.”
Of course, Rowling is not the only billionaire becoming well known for giving to charities. In the past few years, many other billionaires have spent large sums of their fortunes on helping others, namely Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, as well as numerous companies.
Giving Back to Those Who Gave Them
In the same interview, Rowling admitted to owing a lot to her government and to the aid she received while she was struggling. For a few years, Rowling was living off of the United Kingdom’s version of welfare. Without the aid, she states that she would have starved.
This belief is not unique to Rowling. In fact, many of the businesses and individuals giving to charities are doing so because they are acknowledging the fact that they did not get to the prestigious position they are in today all on their own, that they all had some sort of help along the way. In fact, David Rockefeller, whose family is known for helping with the creation of institutions like the University of Chicago and the Museum of Modern Art, states that his “family continues to be united in the belief that those who have benefited the most from our nation’s economic system have a special responsibility to give back to our society in meaningful ways.”
The World’s Richest Pledge it All
In June 2010, billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have announced the creation of the Giving Pledge. This pledge is more of a moral contract made with the world’s richest people to give back over half of their wealth to charities at some point during their life, or after their death. The pledge has over a hundred signatures from billionaires all across the globe, from Mark Zuckerburg, creator of Facebook, to Barron Hilton, CEO of Hilton Hotels, and is still growing. These individuals who have signed the pledge believe that in this century, “to be seen as a contemporary [business person], solving global problems is as important as making profits.”
Buffet believes that the Giving Pledge, while also benefiting many charities, is more of a public statement to inspire others to participate in philanthropy and to help out as much as possible. Buffet himself has promised to give away ninety-five percent of his fortune before his death.
What This Means for Businesses
Giving back is nothing new. And it is especially not new to businesses. But, in a world that is vastly different than it was fifty years ago, a more globalized world where people are making billions of dollars a year, the concept of giving back has changed for businesses. Today, many businesses give back by giving away a percentage of their profit, such as Kroger, a grocery store that gives away ten percent of its profits each year to charities, or by giving their products to those in need, as made famous by Toms’ One for One program, a program that gives away a pair of shoes to a child in need after someone purchases one pair.
It has clearly become a time of giving back for many of the richest people in the world, one that looks like it will continue for a while, with more billionaires pledging to Warren and Gates’ Giving Pledge, as well as more individuals caring about what businesses they spend their money at, and what those businesses are doing to help out in the world.
Rita Spencer is a writer for Ozeal Glasses. Ozeal Glasses is a group of ambitious people looking to make a difference in the prescription glasses world and using charity to help the world have access to eye care.