Outsourcing Philanthropy

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How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.”
- Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Bill Gates quoted the above sentence after giving a gift of the Adam Smith’s two books to Warren Buffet for his very generous donation of some $ 31 billion to the Gates Foundation (only $ 6 billion was given to his children’s charities - he once derided those made rich by inherited wealth as “members of the lucky-sperm club”).

I watched the event online (would recommend highly) and was very moved by both the passion of Melinda and Bill to really make a difference in the world and Mr. Buffet’s belief in them. According to the Economist, Mr Buffett made his gift conditional upon Mr Gates giving up his day job at Microsoft;

“Mr Gates was taught by his mother that he had a responsibility to “give back”. Mr Gates famously brought forward his plans to give away most of his wealth after a World Development Report convinced him that by doing so it would have a greater impact than waiting until he grew old.”

NYT reports that Mr. Gates credited Mr. Buffett for encouraging him, in the early 1990's, to read a copy of the World Development Report.

But did the Sage of Omaha made the right decision in giving the largest share of his money to the Gates Foundation? The agency that seems to have had the largest impact on world development is arguably the World Bank and it currently has a monopoly in generating and disseminating policy ideas with regard to low income countries. I think one of the best ways to help the world’s poor would be to bring in some competition in this field.

1 Comment

Thanks Paul for this interesting information. But not only billionnaires can do something fot the poorest countries.

I would like to mention here a new website of a non-profit NGO called Donationpixel.

Their goal is to collect money for different humanitarian projects around the world.

Their website offers the visibility of the donor - this could be interesting for many companies - the choice of the project and the country, and also the visibility of the work done in the field. They also give answers to different questions, like "Where goes my money?" or "what do they do with it?".

It seems to be an interesting new approach to encourage donations for vulnerables in poor countries. The URL is


Maybe a new way to attract more donation.

Thanks for your attention.



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This page contains a single entry by Paul published on July 1, 2006 1:26 AM.

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