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Rolling into 2011 with The Giving Pledge

In October we showcased Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s high-profile donation of $100 million to the public schools of Newark, New Jersey.

Today, we’re here to say: That was peanuts.

Not because his gift was paltry. In some places $100 million is still considered a lot of money. And one of those places is among nonprofits and professional fundraisers! So hold onto you hats, because a group of wealthy donors has just raised the bar.

Last August we told you about a group of forty American billionaires, led – or at least spoken for – by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, that had signed The Giving Pledge to give away at least half of their personal wealth to charity.

Update: The number has grown to 57 billionaires. And among the 17 who have lately inked the pledge are Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook partner, Dustin Moskovitz.

Forbes says Zuckerberg’s worth $6.9 billion, so that means he’s looking for deserving charities to accept something like $3.45 billion.

The Giving Pledge does not itself accept money or direct donated funds. It reflects the “moral commitment” of the signatories to follow through on their philanthropic promises. This means that the billionaires will be making their own decisions about where their money goes. That may result in some interesting endowments.

You find out more about The Giving Pledge here and see which billionaires have signed it here.

We’re glad to see that more billionaires are signing The Giving Pledge, and that this initiative has not evaporated after garnering its participants a few news cycles’ worth of favorable publicity.

And of course we fundraisers can all live in hope that some of this high-dollar giving may come our way!

More importantly, though, as we mentioned in our piece about Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to the Newark schools, it’s the charitable example these wealthy folks are setting that benefits us most. Not only just in the fact and the quantity of the giving, but also in the youth of the givers.

Zuckerberg and Moskovitz are about the age of the guys blowing the leaves off your lawn this afternoon. Planned giving is usually accomplished by donors of middle age or older. So we hope that the youthful billionaire philanthropists of The Giving Pledge will inspire giving by other donors not necessarily so rich, but potentially as youthful.

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