Bill Gates and Warren Buffett want the wealthiest Americans to commit half of their fortunes to charity. They’re calling it the “Giving Pledge.” Four years ago, when Buffett announced that he would merge his assets with the Gates Foundation, I wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the key to successful philanthropy didn’t lie in the promise to give money away but in the method by which it is given:
The challenge for Mr. Buffett, as well as for Mr. and Mrs. Gates, will be to prevent the creation of a philanthropic dynasty — an organization that exists in perpetuity, clinging tightly to its assets and ever further removed from its benefactors and their intentions. The foundation world is littered with examples of this problem; the Ford Foundation, which is second only to the Gates Foundation in size, is a perfect example of this harmful trend. Does anyone think Henry Ford would approve of seven-figure grants to the ACLU?