Philanthropy beat: Site tracks generosity of the very wealthy

  • Article by: JEAN HOPFENSPERGER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 6, 2012 - 5:13 PM

Two years ago, billionaires Warren Buffet and Bill Gates invited the wealthiest Americans to commit to donating at least half their net worth to philanthropy.

Since then, 81 individuals and families have signed the so-called "giving pledge." With a combined net worth of $400 billion, they are poised to unleash a philanthropic tsunami of $200 billion in the years ahead.

A new website provides information about these mega-rich and generous folks, and it intends to track their numbers over time. The website, glasspockets.org, has compiled the signers' philanthropic interests, service on boards of directors, net worth, professions, names of their personal foundations and more.

It also has a link to the philanthropists' letters accepting the call to the pledge, at www.givingpledge.org, and their often very personal reasons for doing so.

The website, created by the Foundation Center of New York, is heavy on billionaires from banking and finance, technology and business. Some names are well known, others are not.

It includes Arthur Blank and Bernie Marcus, co-founders of Home Depot, film producer George Lucas, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, Hobby Lobby founder David Green, CNN founder Ted Turner and PayPal founder Elon Musk.

Unfortunately for Minnesota charities, not one Minnesotan is on the list -- at least so far. But the former owner of the Minnesota Vikings, Billy Joe "Red" McCombs, has signed the pledge.

McCombs, it turns out, supports the arts, athletics, school programs, higher education, historic preservation, historical societies and medical research. The most recent news article about his philanthropy was posted last month, when he donated $5,000 to a Texas student who was attacked by two chimpanzees in South Africa.

Not an event likely to occur in Minnesota, but it does illustrate the information now available about some of the nation's more generous leaders.

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511

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