In 2009 Bill Gates and Warren Buffett organized a series of dinners with the United States' most wealthy individuals. Word of the dinners was leaked, but Gates and Buffett wouldn't say what the meeting was about. Some speculated doom and gloom, with one radio host saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, there’s mischief afoot and it does not bode well for the rest of us." This was far from reality. A year later Gates and Buffett announced The Giving Pledge, an effort to inspire the world's billionaires to give away their wealth.
As of April 2016 more than $365 billion has been pledged by 139 billionaires, according to The Giving Pledge's website. To put that in perspective, consider that all charitable foundations in the US gave $53 billion in 2014. Billionaires ranging from T. Boone Pickens to Mark Zuckerberg have pledged up to 99% of their wealth to charity.
Both Gates and Buffett have their eyes set on the Forbes 400 List of Billionaires. In 2007 this group had a total adjusted income of $138 billion, and just over $11 billion was taken as a charitable deduction, a proportion of about 8% according to Forbes magazine. As Carol Loomis writes:
One could imagine that the very rich build their net worth during their lifetimes and then put large charitable bequests into their wills. Estate tax data, unfortunately, make hash of that scenario, as 2008 statistics show. The number of taxpayers making estate tax filings that year was 38,000, and these filers had gross estates totaling $229 billion. Four-fifths of those taxpayers made no charitable bequests at death. The 7,214 who did make bequests gave $28 billion. And that’s only 12% of the $229 billion gross estate value posted by the entire 38,000.
That leaves a lot of room for improved giving in the ultra-rich community. Gates and Buffett hope that The Giving Pledge list will grow over the next couple decades as social entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg come into wealth.
Below is The Giving Pledge List as of April 2016