How would you give away a billion?

Giving girls a chance to skate: Skateistan

When we were kids we used to sing… if I had a million dollars, by the Barenaked Ladies, a Canadian band. Nowadays many of us are technically millionaires if we own a home in an urban center, so the next dream is a billion. Seems there are plenty of billionaires out there who are playing the same game (see the Pratt Family from Australia who wants to give away a billion in their lifetime). There are some like Warren Buffett who’s created the Giving Pledge, asking the world’s wealthiest to pledge to give away at least half of their fortune before they die.

But giving away money, whether you’ve inherited it from your grandfather, won it in Vegas at online video slots, or cashed out from a startup exit, is not an easy feat. We’ve attended seminars on how to give away to philanthropy when you have a lot of money and it’s not as easy as writing a big fat check and then undocking your cruise boat from the Caribbean to start its sail around the world. Giving away a lot of money needs to be run like a corporation. It needs to have an office, a staff and a long term mission and investment plan especially if you want your gift to keep giving.

If you happen to have a few million or more to give away (consider donating to Green Prophet – we’d love to send some more reporters out in the field!), but if you have other missions Bill and Melinda Gates, give some tips to follow. They outline it in 4 steps.

  1. Develop a donation strategy. Of course, you can give to whoever asks, but that might defeat the purpose if you want to make a clear and clean impact on one sector of business or on one community. They ask: what is capitalism crumby at solving, and then they donate to that area.
  2. List what charities will fulfill your mission. Of course, when the news gets out that you are donate half of your billions, everyone and their brother will come out of the woodwork to try and get some donations. But make a list in advance. What charities, or better –– impact businesses –– will help you fulfill that mission. Then reach out. If you give globally to get a third party to check out and audit the validity of the charities and businesses. Bill donates on statistics. Melinda on intuition. You could find a combination of both.

Good charity rating sites to follow include:

  1. Donate and feel the results. Apparently, it feels good to donate. Do it and notice the feeling. Now do it again.
  2. Measure results. Before you go back to step 3, look at the results. Like running a business, you have to see if there is growth or impact in resources you have added or put into a problem. Can you notice an impact? Or maybe you could do it a better way next time? When the charity writes back are they giving you news about how your money was spent, or are they asking again?


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