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Last Updated Wednesday September 27 2017 01:21 AM IST

When charity turns big business

P. Kishore
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Business Boom

Poverty could be defined as a byproduct of civilization. The hunter-gatherers had everything for everyone. Civilisation nurtured individualism and a desire to grab a bigger share than the others. Everyone wants to be a millionaire and millionaires want to be billionaires.

Million was a decent amount not long ago. Nowadays, even billion is not a number big enough. Billionaires are not hard to come by. So are billionaires who renounce their assets for the well being of society.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg turned the spotlight on corporate charity when he said he would give away 99 per cent of his shares in the social network for charity purposes, when his wife gave birth to a baby girl. That is, the share left after monetising stock of billions of dollars.

Billionaires who give away more than half of their assets inspire awe. The fact is, they do struggle to spend what is left with them. The list of high-profile donors includes Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg.

They form a separate company or foundation to steer the donated money, such as the Bill and Melinda Foundation. They have ushered in the golden age of philanthropy. Modern-day charity involves a full-fledged office with full-time staff for research and field work and audit. Charity is based on professional methods rather than random picks from among sad stories around us.

They select local partners to do the job in every country they operate in. This results in a windfall for NGOs. Even if they spend 90 per cent of the grants, they are left with a huge sum. Consider the $44 billion the Gates Foundation has in its chest for charity. The foundation employs 1,382 staffers to disburse the amount for its chosen programmes.

Charity has become contagious as more and more rich jump in the bandwagon. Arabs are the latest to proclaim their philanthropy.

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