01 May, 2011

1 May - Eli Broad & The Giving Pledge

Eli Broad is a controversial figure in the art world. An icon of "aggressive philanthropy," Broad is a Los Angeles brand, reputedly a control freak, and in the words of Frank Gehry, “a real pain in the ass.” In his 60 Minutes interview last Sunday with Morley Safer, however, one thing became abundantly clear. Eli Broad is one of a handful of philanthropists who are showing the world how to give.

At 77, Broad has given away over $2 billion to charity and intends to continue giving. In the words of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, "Eli Broad sets the standard. I think it's really being a role model for others. And they look at Eli and because of him, they get the ideas, 'I'm going to be innovative and be philanthropic and do some other things.' The leverage of Eli Broad is really quite amazing."

Broad is one of the Giving Pledge members, a campaign initiated by Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates in which they ask those with the largest fortunes in the world to commit to giving away at least half their fortune during their lifetime or after their death. This dynamic philanthropic leadership has, in the words of Fortune Magazine's Doris Burke, “the potential to dramatically change the philanthropic behavior of Americans, inducing them to step up the amounts they give. With that dinner meeting, Gates and Buffett started what can be called the biggest fundraising drive in history. They'd welcome donors of any kind. But their direct target is billionaires, whom the two men wish to see greatly raise the amounts they give to charities, of any and all kinds.”

Broad frequently quotes Andrew Carnegie's statement "he who dies with wealth dies in shame.” Broad then adds that “he who gives while he lives also knows where it goes.” A window into both the intention and the potential of philanthropy, Broad, Gates, Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, Ted Turner, and a handful of other leaders are leading by powerful example.

These dynamic philanthropists recognize that giving at any level is a learned behavior. To pitch the concept of The Giving Pledge, David Rockefeller Sr. hosted a dinner that included 12 of the wealthiest guests in the world. At that dinner, each was asked to tell a story of how they learned to give. In Burke's words, “David Rockefeller Sr. described learning philanthropy at the knees of his father and grandfather. Ted Turner repeated the oft-told tale of how he had made a spur-of-the-moment decision to give $1 billion to the United Nations. Some people talked about the emotional difficulty of making the leap from small giving to large. Others worried that their robust philanthropy might alienate their children. (Later, recalling the meeting, Buffett laughed that it had made him feel like a psychiatrist.)"

In the 60 Minutes interview, Eli Broad emphasized that his sense of being wealthy was heightened when be began to give his money away. He realized that his money and his life mission was not to simply maintin the status quo, but to make things different and better. Culture cannot exist without altruism and in Broad’s words "civilizations are not remembered by their business people, their bankers or lawyers. They're remembered by the arts.” The reach of philanthropy extends far beyond the arts. The charitable causes that The Giving Pledge dinner guests discussed ranged from education, culture, healthcare and hospitals, public policy, and poverty. Bill Gates stated after that dinner that the event was amazing, the causes admirable, and "the diversity of American giving is part of its beauty."

Support for progress that occurs at the community level has the capacity to influence policy and engender change on a national and global scale. Regardless of the size or type of contribution, it is critical to give. In Burke’s words, “society cannot help but be a beneficiary…nor will it be just the very rich who will perhaps bend their minds to what a pledge of this kind means. It could also be others with less to give but suddenly more reason to think about the rightness of what they do.”

pictured: Eli Broad (L), Warren Buffet, Bill and Melinda Gates (R)

1 comment:

  1. note: Frank Gerry is the biggest pain in the ass of all pain in the asses!

    A few weeks ago I was listening to KSFR during the pledge drive and said to myself, "One day I would like to be rich so that I can give to organizations like this..." I stopped myself in my tracks and stated instead, "I'm going to give to them now so that I am rich." I gave a small amount, but it felt hugely good. It was a turning point for me in understanding generosity and it's upward spiraling motion.

    Inspiring story - thanks!


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