Irish American billionaire Chuck Feeney has been praised by Warren Buffett among the world’s richest men as the person who has inspired a ‘giving while living’ pledge by scores of billionaires who have pledged to give away the majority of their fortunes while still alive.
Feeney , a huge benefactor in Ireland, was first to announce he was giving away all his money while still alive and now many billionaires are following suit.
Last Thursday saw the second official meeting of the group led by billionaire Warren Buffett and Bill Gates' " Last February they started the group which encourages the wealthiest people in the United States to give most of their money to philanthropic causes.
Buffet, a billionaire through investment and industry, called New Jersey philanthropist and Irish American, Chuck Feeney the spiritual leader of the group. Feeney plans to give most of his money to charity. Buffet said "He wants his last check to bounce".
Feeney, the founder of The Atlantic Philanthropies, one of the largest private foundations in the world and former co-owner of the Duty Free Shoppers Group, wrote a letter to Buffett and Gates last February. It read "I cannot think of a more personally rewarding and appropriate use of wealth than to give while one is living - to personally devote oneself to meaningful efforts to improve the human condition. More importantly, today's needs are so great and varied that intelligent philanthropic support and positive interventions can have greater value and impact today than if they are delayed when the needs are greater."
Buffett spoke to the Associated Press on Friday and it seems that the group’s second meeting went well. He sees the meeting as a great chance for billionaires to pledge to give away half of their wealth, meet each other, compare note, eat and laugh.
So far 69 couples or individuals have signed up. Buffett knew only 12 of the 61 people who attended the Miraval Resort in Tucson. He said "They all more than fulfilled my expectations."
Melinda Gates, the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said she was pleased to see how open the guests were. She explained that conversation at her table had drifted toward what were the biggest mistakes the philanthropists had made.
All of the philanthropists seemed to agree that gathering as a group was certainly a beneficial exercise, for the company if nothing else.
Tashia Morgridge, who works with her husband, Cisco Systems chairman John Morgridge, said "One of the things about being a philanthropist, in many ways it's rather a lonely job." Tashia and her husband work to improve US education through the Denver-based Morgridge Family Foundation.
George Kaiser, the chairman of BOK Financial Corp who aids early childhood education and social services programs said "Being able to share with other people who are agonizing about the same decisions is extraordinarily useful."
It is this group's goal to pool their dollars in the mission to improve education, the environment and other causes. The event gave them a chance to share ideas about how to do this.
Jean Case, CEO of the family foundation started by her and her husband, America Online founder Steve Case, said "There's a strong desire in this group to learn from each other."
As ideas were shared the common theme emerged amongst the group that they wanted to do more impactful and more effective philanthropy and to inspire the average person to give money.