Bill Gates sees philanthropy bug spreading

LONDON, January 25 (Reuters): Bill Gates, one of the world’s richest men and one of its best known philanthropists, said on Monday he hopes his passion for giving will soon start to take hold among the super-rich of China and India. Speaking to Reuters in a telephone interview, the multi-billionaire Microsoft founder said he, his wife Melinda, and investor Warren Buffett plan to go to India this year to hold a meeting of the country’s richest people to encourage them into philanthropy.
The meeting will be similar to one Gates and Buffett held in China last year, where they said some of the small group of ultra-rich Chinese made some “very generous” gifts. Buffett and Gates are urging American billionaires to give way at least half their wealth during their lifetime or upon their death by signing the Giving Pledge, which so far has 57 billionaires signed up. Gates said that during the China meeting “interest was very high”, and he hoped for a similar response in India.
“They have a real thirst to understand how it has worked in the United States, even though they will do things in their own unique way,” he said when asked about potential new philanthropic campaigns the two countries. “When philanthropists talk to each other, they learn, they get smarter, they get more enthused, they come up with ways of working with each other -- and in the U.S. case that’s been beneficial.” Gates and Buffett are the second and third richest people in the world, with fortunes of $53 billion and $47 billion respectively.
The Microsoft founder currently runs the $34 billion foundation which is devoted largely to funding health projects in developing countries. Gates said it would probably take some time for the richest people in emerging economies to develop a culture of giving, but said setting up campaigns similar to the U.S. Giving Pledge might speed global philanthropy along.
“In the U.S. it took a long time to get to where we are, and even in our case the percentage of the very richest who give the majority of their wealth away is only about a third,” he said. “But the idea that people who are thinking about philanthropy should come together, learn from each other and talk about the results -- we think that’s a very positive thing for any society.”