Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg Pledges Bulk of Fortune to Charity

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and sixteen other billionaires have recently signed on to The Giving Pledge, a philanthropic campaign that commits them to give at least half of their fortunes to charity. AOL (AOL) co-founder Steve Case, investor Carl Icahn and former Wall Street executive Michael Milken also made the pledge, based on documents at www.givingpledge.org. The list already includes Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, who together launched the campaign earlier this year, as well as Larry Ellison of Oracle (ORCL), and media moguls Ted Turner and Barry Diller.

The Giving Pledge describes its mission as:

" . . . an effort to invite the wealthiest individuals and families in America to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to the philanthropic causes and charitable organizations of their choice, either during their lifetime or after their death.

"Each person who chooses to pledge will make this statement publicly, along with a letter explaining their decision to pledge. At an annual event, those who take the pledge will come together to share ideas and learn from each other.

"The Pledge is a moral commitment to give, not a legal contract. It does not involve pooling money or supporting a particular set of causes or organizations."

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It is hard to say what has caused the rush of commitments. The Giving Pledge may simply have collected the names of people who have already decided to give away most of their money. Warren Buffett committed over two years ago to give the great majority of his estate to Bill Gates' foundation.

Those who have joined The Giving Pledge may also hope to put pressure on their peers to join. Whatever the reason, public disclosures of philanthropy from the richest Americans seems to have grown.