The Foundation Center, which tracks the work of foundations worldwide, has launched a new Web site to make the giving of the wealthiest Americans more visible.
The Eye on the Giving Pledge will provide information on how the wealthiest families are fulfilling their pledge to donate more than half of their assets to philanthropy over their lifetimes.
The Giving Pledge was spearheaded by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates to encourage the wealthiest Americans to commit the majority of their assets to philanthropic causes. To date, 81 families worth a combined $400 billion have signed the pledge.
The Foundation Center, headquartered in New York City, was created in 1956 to document U.S. grantmaking activities. It is an information source about philanthropy worldwide. It has a Web site and maintains funding information centers in public libraries, community foundations and education institutions.
Part of the Foundation Center's efforts at providing information about philanthropy is carried out through its Glasspockets.org Web site, which contains detailed information through The Eye on the Giving Pledge about the Giving Pledge.
"Because the Foundation Center's Glasspockets site focuses on philanthropic transparency, we have launched a new feature, Eye on the Giving Pledge, designed to help track the charitable activities of the pledgers, as well as to provide a glimpse into their characteristics," said Janet Camarena, director of the Foundation Center's San Francisco office and head of the Center's Glasspockets effort.
"The giving pledge has tremendous potential," said Bradford Smith, president of the Foundation Center. "In a world where philanthropists now achieve celebrity status and new forms of philanthropy emerge at an extraordinary clip, it's more important than ever to keep pace with giving trends and make sense of it all. Good data and transparency are key to understanding philanthropy's impact on the world."
Eye on the Giving Pledge will keep track of who has taken the pledge, which industries they made their fortunes in, where they are based, what their philanthropic interests and pet causes are, other charitable gifts they gave and charitable boards they are on. It will add new pledgers, update information and add new features, such as human interest stories about the participants, according to the Foundation Center.
"Because there is no specific timeline for the Giving Pledge gifts to be made, Eye on the Giving Pledge provides a way to follow how those who have signed on are, through their foundations and personal giving, fulfilling their pledge," Camarena said.
The Eye on the Giving Pledge site will provide access to the foundation information available from each of the philanthropists' foundation Web sites, press releases about notable gifts and information from public sources about other giving that may not be connected with a family's foundation.
"The commitments made by the current 81 participants could bring an estimated $200 billion or more to charity over time, potentially representing a dramatic increase in philanthropic giving," Camarena said.
Grant-making foundations in the U.S. currently hold about $646 billion in assets and give $46.9 billion in grants annually.
"In a world in which lists routinely rank people in terms of accumulated wealth, it has been refreshing to see a movement designed to encourage those who are on such lists to celebrate the next gift-not just the next deal-and to go on record committing to use their private wealth for public good," she said.