Most people want billionaires to pitch in to aid poverty and inequality

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Eight out of 10 people think billionaires should help end poverty, inequality and a host of global ills, a poll showed on Wednesday, as funding shortages and the new coronavirus stymied hopes of meeting the United Nations’ development goals for 2030.

The ambitious plans, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), were agreed unanimously by U.N. member states in 2015 with a list of targets to end hunger, gender inequality, and boost access to education and healthcare by 2030.

But researchers said there was now a shortfall of $400 billion a year to achieve those goals – with a financing gap of $350 billion in the 59 poorest countries alone – which would have global implications.

“Philanthropy can step in and plug huge critical gaps,” said Michael Sheldrick, chief policy officer at Global Citizen, an anti-poverty group, which surveyed almost 27,000 people in 25 countries together with Glocalities, a Dutch research agency.

“The COVID-19 is an example of that,” Sheldrick told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview in New York.

“You’ve seen this upsurge in philanthropy, and our hope is that we can channel this into funding the SDGs more broadly.”

Organisations started by billionaires, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Facebook, have donated millions towards testing, protective gear and other campaigns to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. [nL1N2B24YT][nFWN2BH18Q]

Twitter’s Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey earlier this month pledged $1 billion to a charitable fund to help relief efforts related to the coronavirus pandemic, with money later to be directed to girls’ health and education. [nL4N2BV4KS]

Chinese billionaire and Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma pledged through his foundation to donate over 1 million coronavirus testing kits as well as masks, protective suits and ventilators to Africa.


The poll found 82% of people said billionaires should help and contribute to funding the global goals.

On average there was more support for billionaires doing this through philanthropy, with 46% of respondents in favour of voluntary philanthropic donations, but 35% said they should pay a wealth tax to fund the sustainable development goals.

The countries most in favour of billionaires contributing to fund the SDGs were Indonesia, Vietnam and Portugal, while Japan, the Netherlands and the United States came last in the list of 25 countries.

The survey also found that people aged over 55 or aged 18 to 34 were more of the belief that billionaires should pitch in.

People with a higher education level were more in favour of billionaires playing a role, with 85% support, compared to 74% support from those with a lower education.

Experts have warned that the 2030 deadline to meet the U.N.’s development goals is at risk as economies suffer in the fight against the virus, public financing dries up and international cooperation wanes.

Around the world, there are more than 2,000 billionaires worth a combined $10 trillion, said Martijn Lampert, research director of Glocalities.

“People see that billionaires have a moral obligation to contribute,” he said. “This crisis shows the huge inequalities there are, and in the end I think every billionaire has to show his or her true color.”

The $350 billion shortfall, a calculation made prior to the pandemic, breaks down to about $200 per person in the 59 poorest countries, according to Global Citizen.

“We will need to tax high-net worth, especially after the current disaster,” said Jeffrey Sachs, head of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a U.N. initiative, who was involved in the study.

“Budgets everywhere are in disarray,” he said in emailed comments. “Inequality plus COVID-19 are leading to a profound social crisis.”

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Katy Migiro and Belinda Goldsmith. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit

First steps towards a life of giving back

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah gestures during the announcement of the U.S. Global Development Lab to help end extreme poverty by 2030, in New York April 3, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Chris Taylor

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Here is some good news to hold onto this holiday season: Americans are giving more than ever.

Last year, Americans gave a total of $410 billion to worthy causes, according to Giving USA, surpassing $400 billion for the first time ever. And this year’s Giving Tuesday, a charity promotion on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving is seeing pledges already totaling more than $380 million on just that one day, up 27 percent from the year before, according to a survey of major giving portals like Facebook, PayPal and Blackbaud.

Who is helping steer the nation’s charitable dollars, and how did they get there? For the latest in Reuters’ First Jobs series, we talked to a few titans of philanthropy about their first steps towards a life of giving back.

Dr. Rajiv Shah

President, The Rockefeller Foundation

First job: Caddie

I grew up in suburban Detroit, and my first job was as a caddie at the Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. I think I was 15, because I remember I couldn’t drive there on my own yet.

We got paid per bag, per round, plus a tip. My biggest payday was for doing two rounds in a day, both of which involved two bags, so I made $120. I was so excited that when I got home I showed my mom the burn marks on my shoulders, and slapped the cash down on the kitchen counter. I thought I was on top of the world.

My most memorable round was with a local doctor. I had been born with a birth defect of two fingers being stuck together. By chance, I caddied for the doctor who had done the separation procedure, and he recognized his own work when he saw my hand. He made me feel very special.

From that job, I learned that when you do something, give it absolutely everything you’ve got. Show up early, work twice as hard, stay late. I still remember how excited I was to get there early and be one of the first people on the course. A first job like that can shape your mindset about what success looks like. And as a son of an immigrant growing up in Detroit, it was my first time being exposed to a world like that.

Dr. Sue Desmond-Hellmann

CEO, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

First job: Pharmacy assistant

When I was a kid, our family moved to Reno so my dad and his business partner could open a family-run pharmacy. I grew up about a mile away from Keystone Pharmacy, which my father ran for many years. Everyone in Reno knew Frank.

He put up with me trailing him around the pharmacy for most of my childhood. Eventually, I became a bookkeeper for the business. My brothers, meanwhile, used to drive around little yellow trucks to make deliveries.

A lot of people think Reno is a strange place to live and work, and I’ve heard every Reno joke there is. But it was actually a wonderful place to grow up, right by the Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s my happy place.

Gerun Riley

President, The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation

First job: Pizza delivery

My first unpaid job was actually helping my family build our house in Connecticut. At a very early age, I was working nights and weekends, building an addition for our growing family. In the third grade for Show & Tell, I told all my classmates about how to hang drywall.

My first paid job, though, was delivering pizza while I went to university at Bowdoin College in Maine. It required someone who was okay with not having a social life on Friday or Saturday nights, so that was me. I got paid $6 an hour, and the expectation was that there would be tips as well – but since I was mostly delivering to other college students, there wasn’t a lot of that.

I remember I had to drive a bronze Toyota van that spun out a lot and beeped when you backed up. Mostly I delivered to frat houses, so that job forced me to get over my own embarrassment about driving a tacky van and wearing a hokey uniform and doing my job while other people were having fun.

It also taught me to manage my time. I was in neuroscience, and a college athlete, and working 35 hours a week so I could afford clothes and food and books. I had no choice but to be very efficient and thoughtful about how I spent my days.

(Editing by Beth Pinsker and Bernadette Baum)

Five ways to hard-wire children for a lifetime of giving

Children receive toys at a refugee shelter run by German charity organisation Arbeiter Samariter Bund ASB in Berlin, Germany,

By Chris Taylor

NEW YORK(Reuters) – (The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.)

As any parent knows, most children seem to be wired for one thing: Getting, getting, getting.

Then there are kids like Kai Martin.

The 9-year-old Arizonan is counting down to the holidays with a special kind of Advent calendar: Every day in December he is putting a food item in a box, which will be delivered to a local shelter at Christmas.

Some of that generous nature comes from Kai himself. But he is also being hard-wired for giving by his mom, Shannon Bodnar. Just as her own parents inspired her to give – taking her along on trips to give holiday toys to families in need, when she was just 7 – she is now coding the philanthropic instinct into her own child’s brain.

“He has always been a philanthropic kid,” said Bodnar, a technology marketer in Chandler, Arizona. “I am excited to see what kind of charitable adult he will become.”

Fostering children’s charitable impulses helps boost their wellness and self-esteem by showing them they can make a difference in someone’s life, according to Carol Weisman, author of “Raising Charitable Children.” It also helps them develop leadership skills, which are likely to serve them well in their personal and professional lives, Weisman said.

Researchers say that by making philanthropy a habit early in life, while the brain is still developing, we can establish neural pathways that persist into adulthood.

“The path to doing this is to help them have experiences of generosity that they internalize as lasting changes in their brains,” said Dr. Rick Hanson, a psychologist and author of the book “Hardwiring Happiness.”

That means thinking about it, talking about it and repeating it, so that a generous instinct becomes second nature. Like a finicky plant, it needs the right conditions to thrive.

That is where parents come in: Kids whose parents discuss giving with them are 20 percent more likely to give themselves, according to one study by the University of Indiana’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Parents certainly seem to be doing our part: 87 percent of kids report that their parents encouraged them to give away toys or clothes, according to the 2016 Parents, Kids & Money survey by Baltimore-based money managers T. Rowe Price. And 69 percent were encouraged to give cash to charity, as well.

But, as any parent also knows, getting kids to do as they are told is akin to pushing a recalcitrant donkey. Here is some advice to successfully plant seeds of philanthropic behavior:

1. Use the holidays as a teachable moment.

The end of the year is when families do much of their annual giving. “Tell kids how much money you have to give away, and then discuss what causes are important to you as a family,” said Weisman. “If the children are very small, maybe even use Monopoly money.”

2. Make sure they see family giving.

These days, much of your charity may be done through credit-card donations or automatic withdrawals, which your kids might not witness. Rectify that by involving them in the process and having them click on that donation button themselves, advises Weisman.

3. Make a mindfulness practice out of it.

If your child gives a buck to a homeless person and then immediately forgets about it, you probably have not fostered any long-lasting habit. So have your child think not only about what good that dollar will do, but how the act of giving made them feel. “Neurologically, this simple practice – taking only half a dozen seconds or longer – will increase the encoding of generosity,” said Hanson.

4. Start with giving time.

Obviously young children do not have much money of their own, so begin cultivating the charitable impulse by having children give of their time.

Shannon Bodnar sits down every year and talks with son Kai about which causes they feel strongly about, so they can start allocating their volunteer time. “Then you can start talking about giving money as well – such as fundraising or donating a portion of their allowance,” Bodnar said.

5. Go beyond the holidays.

While Bodnar may have provided the initial spark for giving, Kai has taken it to bonfire levels – and not just at Christmas time, either.

His birthday is in the spring, and he has refused gifts for the last four years, instead asking people to donate to the local leukemia and lymphoma society. Using the charitable fundraising site Crowdrise, he has amassed a total of $6,700.

(Editing by Beth Pinsker and Andrew Hay)