It's commonly said that money is the root of all evil--and this is certainly true in many instances. When you look at atrocious crimes, legal issues in business, jealousy, rage, and betrayal, it's hard to ignore the fact that dollar signs can often be found at the heart of the matter. People tend to make illogical decisions when money is involved. That's the way we--as a modern society--have been trained. However, with that being said, money doesn't have to lead to evil.
While money may fuel wicked motives, it can also be used to instigate positive changes. When put in the right hands, money has the power to transform lives and produce tangible change with generational reverberations. It's this generosity that gives us hope and makes us realize that there is a greater reason to pursue success in the business world.
Meet These Generous Business Leaders
If you look past all of the headlines about greedy business executives who are focused on nothing more than fattening the bottom line of their businesses, you'll find proverbial "diamonds in the rough." These are the CEOs, business owners, entrepreneurs, and leaders that have learned how to maximize every dollar earned by giving to those who need it most.
While there are generous business leaders on every stage, I want to take a moment to introduce you to the most charitable ones on a grand stage. Without further ado, here are some of the most generous business leaders in the world.
No person is more philanthropic than Bill Gates. He's given away more money than any other living person--both in terms of his wealth and the scale of what he's given. While it's hard to track down an exact dollar amount that's up to date, Bill and his wife Melinda have given away more than $30 billion over the past few decades. In 2012 alone, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave away $3.4 billion in assets. Here's a quick rundown of some of the different facts about the foundation.
When Bill and Melinda pass away, all signs indicate that the large majority of their wealth will be given to charities and foundations to be used for positive change. That number will likely exceed $100 billion.
One of the wealthiest men in the world also happens to be one of the most generous. Warren Buffet has made billions of dollars throughout his career, but has given away just as much. While you'd have to take out an entire newspaper page to list his charitable contributions, just know that Buffet has pledged to give away more than $30 billion of his life earnings. In fact, this year, he gave $2.6 billion worth of his Berkshire Hathaway stock to five different charities.
While accepting a Forbes philanthropy award at a recent gala, Buffet told the 150-plus billionaires in attendance, "The truth is I have never given a penny away that had any utility to me. I am very grateful for this award. I accept this award. But I'd like to accept it not only for myself but for those millions of people who really give away money that's important to them because they see somebody else where they think they can do more good."
After delivering this message, Buffett concluded by encouraging those in attendance to take his Giving Pledge, which asks billionaires to make a commitment to give away at least half of their fortune during their lives, or upon passing. "Think about whether the other $500 million might do more for humanity than it will for you and your family."
When you study the rest of the business leaders on the list, you'll see that--whether purposely or inadvertently--many are following Buffet's lead.
While he may be young when compared to the likes of Gates and Buffet, age is not a limiting factor when it comes to charitable giving. The Facebook founder first made headlines in 2010 when he donated $100 million of his own money to a New Jersey public school system, one that he had no personal connection with. Later that year, he joined the The Giving Pledge.
In 2013, Zuckerberg's generosity continued when he donated 18 million shares of Facebook to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. At the time, those stocks were valued around $500 million. Since then, Zuckerberg has given away millions more and--because of the age at which he started--could eventually be known as the most charitable business leader of all time.
When it comes to charitable giving, there are two different measuring sticks you can use to determine generosity. You can think about giving in terms of the dollar amount, or as the percentage of wealth. Perhaps the latter is a better guide, as it shows how much a person is giving in relation to what they have.
If you use the percentage of wealth as the determining factor, you may come to the conclusion that Cisco co-founders, Leonard Bosack and Sandy Lerner, are the two most generous people on the planet. After walking away from Cisco, they received $170 million in compensation. Within a short period of time, they put more than 70 percent of that money towards charitable causes.
While they're no longer married, Bosack and Lerner remain close friends. They've pretty much maxed out their charitable giving, but now host fundraising events to encourage those within their high-powered networks to give generously.
Today's Business World Needs More Generosity
When the right person encounters success, the possibilities for change are virtually endless. And while greedy, self-seeking business people generally steal the headlines for all the wrong reasons, remember that there are a handful of charitable leaders doing the right things with the blessings they've been granted in life.
While you may not have exactly the same amount of fiscal resources as those mentioned in this article, this should serve as a friendly reminder that generosity isn't necessarily tied to how many zeroes you can write on a check. It's about what's happening at a heart level. If you can only afford to give away $100, but give that money to someone who needs it more, you'll be considered just as generous as the individual who gives away $1 million.
Use this list as inspiration and reassurance. While you may not readily see it when you turn on the evening news, there is good in the world. Money doesn't have to be the root of all evil--and these charitable business leaders continue to prove this every day.