WWBGD? (What Would Bill Gates Do?)

The wealthiest people in the U.S. evidently met recently to discuss what they could do to shore up the non-profit world.  (If you haven’t heard, with the economy tanking, charitable donations are down.)   People like Bill & Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, Oprah, Michael Bloomberg, Ted Turner and more.  As a group, they’ve donated more than $70 billion in last 13 years. Call it $5 billion a year for sake of easy math.

That’s a pretty big percentage of all the giving that goes on in the U.S. coming from just a few people  (And, yes, I know that a lot of the giving this group does is global so the real percentage is going to be off here.)  In one year (2006), Americans gave nearly $300 billion to charitable causes.  2007 saw the first time giving broke through the $300 billion range.  (2008 numbers will be out soon but expect that number to go down, especially since a lot of organizations see a sizable chunk of change coming through in the holiday months when everything was blowing up and the Madoff scandal was hitting donors hard.)

Individuals are generally responsible for approximately three-quarters of all donations in any given year.  (I’m not sure if the bean counters count the donations of these wealthy individuals, who are often donating through their foundations, as individuals or corporate giving.  Anyone know?)

I’m watching the story break around the “secret summit” with interest.  Seems like the coverage is more focused on the meeting itself than what the big donors are thinking in terms of giving.  (Conspiracy theory anyone?)  Still, maybe there should a summit of what the average donor could do?

Yes, I know that times are tough and lots of people are out of work but this is a time when we can make good on our promises to donate more of something that costs us nothing, our time, our ideas and our energy.  Think about it.