June 16, 2010

Analyzing the Gates-Buffett Fund-Raising Drive

What to make of the effort by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates to turn other wealthy people into megaphilanthropists? 

Matthew Bishop, co-author of the book Philanthrocapitalism: How Giving Can Save the World, calls the lobbying effort a "coming of age" moment for the movement described in his book -- more and more rich businesspeople using their wealth to solve social and environmental problems. 

Nathaniel Whittemore, who writes a blog on social entrepreneurship on, says that if some of this money starts flowing, he hopes it will go not just to symphonies, universities, and other sorts of charities that have typically captured the largest share of rich peoples' philanthropy.

Mr. Whittemore also says that philanthropy can't be seen as the only, or even the main, vehicle for creating change.

"The risk here is that this new philanthropic commitment simply amplifies and reiterates the 20th century wealth narrative that says, effectively, 'make money how and wherever, then eventually turn your attention to giving it away,'" he writes.

Instead, Mr. Whittemore says that "we need to initiate a new way of doing business," and find business solutions to solving social problems. That's something that, thankfully, many billionaires may already understand, says Mr. Whittemore.

What do you think of the call to give by the Gateses and Mr. Buffett?