The fortunes used for philanthropic purposes by American billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett will run dry just decades after their patrons pass away. Unlike foundations created by magnates like Carnegie and Rockefeller, today's wealthiest philanthropists live by the motto "giving while living" instead of establishing trusts that mainly reinvest dividends for the sake of self preservation.
Beside Gates and Buffet sits Chuck Feeney, founder of the Duty Free Shoppers that sell tax-free liquor and perfume at airports. His charity has quietly given away nearly $4 billion and will close its doors once its founder passes away. Feeney is largely responsible for the "giving while living" philosophy and its effect has been palpable. Modern philanthropists like Michael Bloomberg, Richard Branson, and Mark Zuckerberg are all giving their money away while they are still alive.
While these charities have less time to improve the world, they can more effectively leverage their funds because they are willing to give away larger sums in one fell swoop. And because the timeframe is much shorter, there is a greater sense of urgency, say observers, to accomplish as much as possible as soon as possible.
In his Big Think interview, Richard Branson speaks on the urgency of philanthropy and how money locked away in a bank vault dodges the responsibility of wealth:
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