There is a notable trend, especially among first generation billionaires who are giving away much of their wealth to charity. The latest to do so is Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan. In a letter to their new-born daughter Max, the couple pledged to donate 99 per cent of their Facebook shares, estimated at over $45 billion, to charity. With this, Zuckerberg joins the likes of Bill Gates and billionaire investor Warren Buffett, and is also one of the first to join the Giving Pledge, an initiative started by Gates and Buffett to get wealthy individuals and families to give away more than half of their wealth to charities during their lifetime or after. Gates has pledged to give away about 95 per cent of his wealth and Buffett 99 per cent.
But what sets Zuckerberg apart from Messrs Gates and Buffett is his age and vision. Just 31 and his wife Priscilla 30, they are perhaps the youngest billionaires to do what they did. Interestingly, while India is home to two of the five richest people in the world, only Wipro’s Azim Premji chose to join the pledge and has already given away 39 per cent of his stake worth `53,284 crore in the IT firm Wipro to charity. Recently, Bharti Airtel’s Sunil Mittal announced a `5-crore cut from his annual salary to fund a legal aid service to help first-time undertrials languishing in Indian jails for minor offences.
Other billionaires prefer to be silent on their personal philanthropy. This makes one wonder whether they are averse to join such a noble initiative or just want to be gupt daatas or anonymous donors. There are quite a few billionaires, many of them have made it to the Forbes list and yet, are parsimonious in their generosity. Some prefer to have obscenely lavish weddings for their children or build temples and ashrams that cater to a few than the really poor, needy or the sick. They could learn a few lessons in giving from Buffett, Gates, Premji and Zuckerberg, and make a difference, to their own lives and the world at large.