Even Billionaires Give

Forbes just came out with their latest list of billionaires. The media, during our recession and tax crisis, has been concentrating on the top 1%, which are Americans earning at least $343,000 in adjusted gross income, as reported on their tax returns. This latest list of billionaires is way out of even the 1%’s league.

The News this week reported another 17 U.S. billionaires, including Facebook cofounders Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz, have pledged to give away at least half of their fortunes as part of the philanthropic campaign led by Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, probably the two best-known billionaires. Buffet’s and Gates’ efforts now have added 57 of our billionaires joining “The Giving Pledge.”

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that of all the reasons to give, which include vanity, guilt, tax breaks or wanting to help solve the world’s problems, the most powerful reason is “legacy,” which, [at the] bottom line, boils down to “what’s on your tombstone,” says British telecom billionaire John Caudwell.

Throughout American history, billionaires have given to improve our society. Andrew Carnegie, who made his fortune in the steel industry, helped fund 3,000 public libraries over 100 years ago, which, even today, continues to impact most Americans. He funded [the] construction of 7,000 church organs, and his Carnegie Hall in New York City still stands as a monument to his belief that music can improve a society. John Rockefeller, Jr., who made his fortune in oil, donated land along the East River in Manhattan for the United Nations headquarters in his belief that the world together can get better. These are examples of the very visible givers. There are hundreds of others who have given to help hospitals and schools and the underprivileged.

It is time for the rest of us in the other 99% to do our part to help those less fortunate in our communities. The rich get a lot of publicity when they give, whether they want it or not, [b]ut the backbone of charity really comes from the rest of society. We are the ones who serve food at the homeless shelter or do the fundraising to make sure the kids have socks and a decent meal.

The season of giving was a few months ago, and now we have all gone back to our normal lives. This is really when the nonprofit world needs us the most. […] You don’t have to be a billionaire leaving a legacy to make a difference. Each one of us in our own little way can help those less fortunate. Even if your reward is just a smiling face or a thank-you for helping change someone’s life, it is what we do as Americans. Volunteer [or] give a few bucks, because, in the end, when you pay it forward and help, you will feel like a billionaire.

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