Bill Gates charity man happy to help billionaires give

Fri Aug 6, 2010 2:20pm EDT
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. billionaires pledging to give away at least half their wealth to charity can turn to the man in charge of Bill Gates' and Warren Buffett's philanthropy for advice -- but he doesn't want their donations.

Since 2008 Jeff Raikes has been chief executive of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the world's largest charitable organizations with a $33 billion endowment funded by Microsoft founder Gates and investor Buffett.

Raikes said the Gates and Buffett Giving Pledge campaign to urge America's rich to give away most of their fortunes during their lifetime or upon their death, which so far has 40 billionaire members, would be a "seminal moment in history."

"If (any of the Giving Pledge members) want to chat with me about what they can do to set up their own foundation or how to focus their foundation on areas that really can make a difference in the world I am more than happy to sit down and chat with folks," he told Reuters in an interview.

The Giving Pledge does not accept money or tell people how to donate their money, but asks billionaires to make a moral commitment to give their fortunes to charity.

Many billionaires taking the pledge have already been active in philanthropy in everything from genetic and cancer research to education, gun control and libraries and the arts. Others may now wonder what to give their vast fortunes to.

But instead of just writing checks, Raikes said it was important these billionaires take on a philanthropic challenge they are passionate about.

"The greatest success from the Giving Pledge will come if these givers, who are incredibly successful talented people, if they become active in philanthropy as well," said Raikes, who took the Gates Foundation helm after nearly three decades at Microsoft where he helped created Microsoft's Office software.   Continued...

<p>Jeff Raikes, chief executive of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in an undated photo. REUTERS/Bill &amp; Melinda Gates Foundation</p>