Give like Gates

I’ve been ‘halfway done’ with the Steve Jobs biography for 4 weeks – partly because it documents every waking hour of his life, and partly because he’s coming across as a self-centered jerk. It was easy to put down.  I’m sure Gates has had his moments too, but the extent and impact of his philanthropy is absolutely awe-inspiring.  No, none of us have the amount of money or network that comes with such wealth, but there are giving lessons we all can learn from Professor Gates.

1. Commit

Gates has committed to giving at least half of his net worth during his lifetime.  That may be a stretch for you, but instead, grow your philanthropy budget. It’s not as hard as you think.  Learn to live with less and share more. It’s thriftiness meets kindergarten, try it.

2. Engage your network

Gates has successfully challenged his rich friends to make a similar commitment.  Similarly, challenge your friends to give more, match what you do, run a 5k together, join an event committee together, give up your own birthday (and everyone’s) for charity, put your volunteer roles on your LinkedIn page and more.  You’ll give more, have more fun and create stronger relationships.

3. Fix a problem from both ends … and in the middle

In addressing malaria, Gates gives to research, makes distribution easier and invested to dramatically reduce the cost of the vaccine (by 99%).  Pick your issue and find 3 ways to comprehensively approach it.  Increase your financial commitment to invest in each and/or find two friends, determine your strategy and attack.  Want to help the local zoo? Donate to bring a new exhibit, buy gift memberships and host your kid’s (or your own) birthday party there to expose more people to what you love.  Want to help the homeless?  For one week buy an extra to-go meal each time you eat out downtown and hand it to someone on the street, donate stuff to a shelter (but do it right) and volunteer to tutor homeless children (prevention).

I leave you with this beautiful infographic on Gates and giving from Frugal Dad.

bill gates infographic


4 thoughts on “Give like Gates

  1. Nathan – I so enjoy reading your posts. You pull out some great ideas from interesting places.

    Since I’m from the NW, I definitely have an affinity toward Gates & Microsoft, and enjoy some Apple products. But Microsoft’s philanthropy really should be the bar that other companies seek to emulate. Apple just doesn’t seem to get it.

    With the US wishing to cut taxes and services and hoping that the for-profit, non-profit and religious sectors jump in to provide the social safety net, we do need more of the “unsung heroes” – individuals and businesses. Thanks for helping readers to think bigger about their giving!

  2. I apologize if this is a duplicate comment, but I got an error, and it doesn’t look like it posted. I heartily second your notion that we can give like Bill Gates. I think people should know that even though he has a lot of financial resources, the small dollar donations are even more important. People like us donate over 200 Billion dollars every year! But because we have busy schedules and donate in small amounts throughout the year, our donations aren’t making as big an impact. Here’s the blog post I wrote about how to give like Bill Gates:

  3. Nice article. I am still reading Adrian’s article on Growing Philanthropy–it would be great for an AFP-IC lunch meeting presenter and topic. I particularly liked your reference in fix things from both ends, about giving to your local zoo! When our daughter was younger, it was Interfaith Hospitality Network–great way to get kids involved in philanthropy. Sally

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