Giving Pledge Signatories Gather to Discuss Bold Approaches to Global Philanthropy

SEATTLEMay 9, 2014 — This week a group of the world's wealthiest families gathered to discuss their philanthropic commitments at the Giving Pledge Annual Gathering. The Giving Pledge, a long-term, global initiative created by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates that aims to inspire deeper engagement in philanthropy, brings together high net-worth individuals to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing society.

The Giving Pledge encourages wealthy families to engage in an open dialogue about philanthropy and inspire more people to tackle problems that are inherently difficult and diverse, such as improving education, fighting poverty or researching the next medical miracle. Topics discussed at this year's Annual Gathering included:

  • Partnering with government to maximize impact
  • Investing in women and girls
  • Social entrepreneurship
  • Global health
  • Environment
  • Education

Now in its fourth year, the Giving Pledge has shown strong momentum in encouraging billionaires to give away at least half of their fortunes to charitable causes. In 2013, the Pledge was opened up to international signatories, inviting pledgers from around the world to share their unique approaches to giving and lend their voices to a wider range of global issues in need of philanthropic investment. This momentum continued through the 2014 Annual Gathering as four more families and individuals joined the Giving Pledge, bringing the total to 127 signatories representing 12 countries and 26 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

The new pledge signatories announced today are Ann Gloag OBE, Natalie and Paul Orfalea, Craig Silverstein and Mary Obelnicki, and Dave Goldberg and Sheryl Sandberg.

"We are thrilled to welcome this diverse group of business leaders and philanthropists to the pledge," said Warren Buffett, co-founder of the Giving Pledge. "They bring a wealth of expertise to the group. We will learn a lot from their experiences as we collectively aim to inspire one another to earlier and better giving."

"We are just getting started with our philanthropy. This week we launched our website, echidnagiving.org, for our fund that focuses on girls' education in the developing world. So the Giving Pledge Annual Gathering was a great opportunity to exchange ideas with others who are working on that area and learn from their perspectives – what has worked and what hasn't," said Craig Silverstein, a new pledger who founded Echidna Giving with his wife Mary Obelnicki.

"We look forward to benefitting from the collective experiences of the group as we pursue our goal of enrolling more girls into better schools so they can live better lives," added Ms. Obelnicki.

About the Giving Pledge

The Giving Pledge is a global effort to help address society's most pressing problems by encouraging the wealthiest families to give the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes.

The 127 pledgers range in age from 29 to 98. Globally, signatories represent 12 countries. In the United States, they are from 26 states and the District of Columbia, with the largest contingents from California and New York. Over the long-term, the Giving Pledge hopes to help shift the social norms of philanthropy toward giving more, giving sooner and giving smarter. Signatories to the Giving Pledge are developing innovative approaches to urgent needs such as poverty alleviation, disaster relief, ending human slavery, improving global health and advancing medical research.

The Giving Pledge encourages open conversation about philanthropy and does not involve direct appeals, pooling money, or requirements to support a particular cause or organization. Pledge signatories come together throughout the year to discuss challenges, successes and failures, as well as how to be smarter about giving.

Although the Giving Pledge is specifically focused on billionaires, it is inspired by past and present efforts that encourage and recognize givers of all financial means and backgrounds. The inspiration is the example set by millions of people who give generously (and often at great personal sacrifice) to make the world a better place.

For the full list of pledgers and personal letters by many of these pledgers outlining their commitment to give, visit www.givingpledge.org.

Biographies of New Pledgers

Ann Gloag OBE

Ann Gloag is co-founder and former executive director of the international transport company Stagecoach.

Through her Balcraig and Gloag Foundations, she has invested heavily in Africa. In Kenya, she funds and runs an orphanage and school in Nairobi and set up a women's rescue centre with the co-operation of the local Maasai chiefs. She also runs a school for 200 children in Kibera. In 2008, Ann established the Freedom From Fistula Foundation, which helps women injured from prolonged, obstructed childbirth. In April 2010, Ann opened a maternity unit at the Aberdeen Women's Centre in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Ann serves on the boards of Mercy Ships, which provides free medical and humanitarian aid to the people of West Africa.

Ann has received numerous awards, including admission into the Order of the Star of Africa, the inaugural Susan B. Anthony Humanitarian Award, the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kil Medal, Global Woman of the Year by the St Andrews Society, European Women in Achievement Award, and the Great Scot Award.

Natalie and Paul Orfalea

As the Co-Founder and Chairperson of the Orfalea Foundation, Natalie Orfalea guides and promotes the foundation's initiatives in early childhood education, scholarships, promotion of individualized learning, transition to real food in schools and preschools, establishment of outdoor classrooms and school gardens, community partnerships, improved emergency and disaster readiness; and the experience-based youth development program for teens known as REACH.

An active mother, businessperson, and "hands-on" philanthropist, Natalie currently serves on the board of the Good Night Foundation, and formerly served on the board for Direct Relief International. Natalie is passionate about discovering and providing opportunities for youth and family empowerment.

Paul Orfalea founded Kinko's in 1970, near the University of California Santa Barbara. From its modest beginnings, Kinko's – now Fed Ex Office – became the world's leading business services chain, with over 1,700 branches worldwide.

In the year 2000, Paul retired from Kinko's, and is no longer involved with the company, yet the empowering, democratizing organizational style he brought to Kinko's can be seen today in the culture and aspirations of the Orfalea Foundation.

Through the Orfalea Foundation, Paul encourages improvements in school food, quality early care, environmental practices, preventative oral health, and experiential education.

Craig Silverstein and Mary Obelnicki

Craig Silverstein and Mary Obelnicki are engineers.

Craig received his computer science degree with distinction at Harvard and continued his graduate studies at Stanford. There, he saw a new idea he thought could change the world, and joined Larry Page and Sergey Brin in the garage that became Google. Fourteen years later, another world-changing idea propelled him to the Khan Academy, where he is the Dean of Infrastructure.

Mary earned her degrees – S.B. and M.Eng -- at MIT. When not studying, she worked with the Girl Scouts of Flint, Michigan, where she engineered the perfect toasted marshmallow for her campers – perhaps her first fusion of analytical thinking and social change. That combination led her to the on-line community organizing of Big Tent, to a Coro Fellowship in public affairs, and to her philanthropic work with Craig.

Together, Craig and Mary founded Echidna Giving, a fund that invests in girls' education in the developing world (echidnagiving.org) – yet another idea that they believe can transform the world for the better. They remain engineers, with a belief in the power of data and rigorous analysis to make ideas reality. They've never met an echidna they didn't like.

Dave Goldberg and Sheryl Sandberg

Dave Goldberg is an accomplished entrepreneur, venture capitalist and music industry executive. He has run, and successfully grown, several online consumer businesses. Currently, Dave is CEO of SurveyMonkey, the world's leading online survey platform. He also serves on the Board of Directors at Dashbox, Graham Holdings Co. (formerly The Washington Post Co.) and the non-profit New Schools Venture Fund. He graduated from Harvard University with a BA in History and Government.

Sheryl Sandberg is chief operating officer at Facebook. Prior to Facebook, Sheryl was vice president of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google, chief of staff for the United States Treasury Department under President Clinton, and an economist with the World Bank. Sheryl is the author of the number-one bestseller Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, and founder of LeanIn.Org. Sheryl serves on the boards of Facebook, LeanIn.Org, the Walt Disney Company, Women for Women International, ONE, V-Day, and the Center for Global Development. She received a BA in Economics from Harvard University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.