Do Billionaires Have A Heart?

Opinion

on March 14 2012 1:49 PM
Mark Zuckerberg speaks to reporters at Harvard University in Cambridge
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks to reporters at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts November 7, 2011. Zuckerberg is visiting MIT and Harvard to recruit students about to graduate to work at Facebook. Reuters

While the media has been concentrating on the top 1 percent of Americans -- which translates to earnings of at least $343,000 in adjusted gross income, as reported on their tax returns -- Forbes has been compiling their latest list of billionaires, and they are way out of even the 1 percent's league.

The News International reported another 17 United States billionaires, including Facebook co-founders Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz, have pledged to give away at least half of their fortunes as part of the philanthropic campaign led by Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, probably the two best known billionaires. The combined efforts of Buffet and Gates have added 57 of our billionaires joining The Giving Pledge.

Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that of all the reasons to give, which include vanity, guilt, tax breaks, or wanting to help solve the world's problems, the most powerful reason is legacy, which boils down to What's on your tombstone, according to British telecom billionaire John Caudwell.

Throughout American history, billionaires have given to improve our society. Andrew Carnegie, who made his fortune in the steel industry, helped fund 3,000 public libraries over 100 years ago. He funded the construction of 7,000 church organs and his Carnegie Hall in New York City still stands as a monument to his belief that music can improve a society. John Rockefeller, Jr., who made his fortune in oil, donated land along the East River in Manhattan for the United Nations headquarters; it was his belief that the world together could get better. These are examples of the very visible givers, though there are hundreds of others who have given to help hospitals and schools and the underprivileged.

It is time for the rest of us in the other 99 percent to do our part to help those less fortunate in our communities. The rich get a lot of publicity when they give, whether they want it or not. But the backbone of charity really comes from the rest of society. We are the ones who serve food at the homeless shelter, or do the fundraising to make sure the kids have socks and a decent meal.

The season of giving was a few months ago and now we have all gone back to our normal lives. This is really when the nonprofit world needs us the most. My company, Dollar Days , is giving away $5,000 in merchandise to help families in need this month on our Facebook page.  Stop by, enter, and tell us how you would help a family in need.

You don't have to be a billionaire leaving a legacy to make a difference. Each one of us in our own little way can help those less fortunate. Even if your reward is just a smiling face or a thank you for helping change someone's life, it is what we do as Americans. Volunteer. Give a few bucks. Because, in the end, when you pay it forward and help, you will feel like a billionaire.

Marc Joseph is the author of The Secrets of Retailing, Or: How to Beat Wal-Mart! and the CEO/President and founder of DollarDays International Inc.

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