NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Over the years, Warren Buffett's charitable efforts have received almost as much media coverage as his business decisions and investments, but his latest effort may end up drawing even more attention.
This week, Buffett teamed up with
and his wife, Melinda, to promote "The Giving Pledge," a new campaign aimed at boosting charitable donations from America's wealthiest individuals.
The program is aimed at the super-wealthy, but as The Giving Pledge's website points out, the inspiration for this program comes from the average Americans who endure great personal sacrifices in an effort to make the world a better place.
Rather than collecting funds or binding donors to a legal contract, the individuals who agree to join The Giving Pledge make a moral pledge to give away the majority of their total wealth to charitable programs. Participants are encouraged to do so publicly, with a written letter explaining their reasoning.
By dividing the total wealth of the world's 400 richest individuals in half, the media has determined that $600 billion is a suitable benchmark for the program.
Buffett himself got the ball rolling this week, with his own letter highlighting the substantial charitable pledge he has made.
In the letter, Buffett explained that in 2006, he made a commitment to donate the entirety of
Berkshire Hathaway Class A
shares to charity. According to Buffett, the value of this gift represents 99% of his wealth. Over the years, he has consistently followed through with this pledge, donating gifts to organizations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Susan A. Buffett Foundation, and other charitable programs. In total, 20% of his shares have already been donated. Going forward, he intends to donate 4% of his remaining shares annually.
Although his letter focused mainly on his monetary gifts to charity, Buffett has also donated his time in an effort to aid others. In last week's closely-watched
auction, a bidder forked over more than $2.6 million for the opportunity to wine and dine with the world famous investor. This year's winning bid marked a new record for the auction. The previous title of highest bidder was held by Chinese fund manager, Zhao Danyang, who in 2008 offered up $2.1 million for the chance to chat with Buffett over lunch.
As in previous years, 100% of the funds raised from this auction will go directly to the Glide Foundation, a San Francisco-based, non-profit organization designed to provide poor and marginalized citizens with healthcare, job training and shelter.
Although the press is just now learning of The Giving Pledge, a group of wealthy individuals and their families have already reportedly hopped onto the bandwagon with Buffett.
, David Rockefeller, Eli Broad, John Doerr, Gerry Lenfest and John Morgridge have all announced that they would pledge at least 50% of their wealth to charity.
Readers interested in learning more about this new effort or reading Buffett's pledge in its entirety can visit The Giving Pledge's
Do you feel that The Giving Pledge will be able to meet this $600 billion benchmark? Do you feel that society should expect the world's rich to give away a substantial portion of their wealth to charity? Feel free to leave a comment below.
Don Dion is president and founder of
, a fee-based investment advisory firm to affluent individuals, families and nonprofit organizations, where he is responsible for setting investment policy, creating custom portfolios and overseeing the performance of client accounts. Founded in 1996 and based in Williamstown, Mass., Dion Money Management manages assets for clients in 49 states and 11 countries. Dion is a licensed attorney in Massachusetts and Maine and has more than 25 years' experience working in the financial markets, having founded and run two publicly traded companies before establishing Dion Money Management.
Dion also is publisher of the Fidelity Independent Adviser family of newsletters, which provides to a broad range of investors his commentary on the financial markets, with a specific emphasis on mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. With more than 100,000 subscribers in the U.S. and 29 other countries, Fidelity Independent Adviser publishes six monthly newsletters and three weekly newsletters. Its flagship publication, Fidelity Independent Adviser, has been published monthly for 11 years and reaches 40,000 subscribers.