11 June 2019

In episode 51, we explore philanthropic pledges: what are they, do they work and how have they been used to drive more and better giving? Including:
  • Mackenzie Bezos’ recent decision to join the Giving Pledge has been widely reported. But how successful has this initiative been overall?
  • Who are the notable signatories and the notable absences from the Giving Pledge? Why have some people not signed?
  • Has the Giving Pledge shifted the level of giving by the ultra wealthy? Has it had any impact on overall levels of giving?
  • What can we learn from the pledge letters of GP signatories?
  • Does the GP lack the tools to hold signatories to their pledges? Should it?
  • Is the GP’s scope less radical than it might have been, and why?
  • What of other pledge initiatives like the Founders Pledge?
  • Does a pledge represent an expectation that a certain level of wealth comes with responsibilities to give, or is it entirely voluntary?
  • What does academic research tell us about the economics and psychology of pledges?
  • Why are the concepts of 'warm glow', 'pain of payment' and 'psychological distance' important in understanding how to design effective pledges?
  • How does crowdfunding relate to philanthropic pledges?
  • Could the future be about 'conditional donations', where conditions are set and then donations automatically executed if they are met?

Related content

Marc Gunther’s article Has the Giving Pledge Changed Giving? for The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Vox.com article on the Founders Pledge

Sadeh, Tonin & Vlassopolous (2014) Why Give Away your Wealth? An Analysis of the Billionaires' View

Meyvis, T., Bennett, A. & Oppenheimer, D. (2011). Precommitment to Charity in Oppenheimer, D. ed. (2016) The Science of Giving: Experimental Approaches to the Study of Charity, Routledge.

Cotterill, John & Richardson (2012) The Impact of a Pledge Request and the Promise of Publicity: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Charitable Donations

Fosgaard & Soevtevent (2018) Promises undone: How committed pledges impact donations to charity

Elsden, Trotter, Harding, Davies, Speed & Vines (2019) "Programmable Donations: Exploring Escrow-based Conditional Giving".

bill gates
Giving Pledge go-founder Bill Gates at the signing of a partnership worth €100 million between the Gates Foundation, the French Development Agency and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) aimed at increasing immunization coverage in 6 French-speaking countries in the Sahel region of Africa.

About the Giving Thought podcast

The Giving Thought podcast is an exploration of trends in global philanthropy and civil society. Launched in 2017 it is recognised as an insightful and influential source of philanthropic debate.  Rhodri Davies director of our Giving Thought Think Tank hosts the podcast, discussing contemporary issues and interviewing sector experts. Episodes are also available free on iTunes and Libsyn.

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Rhodri Davies

Rhodri Davies

Head of Policy

Rhodri leads Giving Thought, our in-house think tank focusing on current and future issues affecting philanthropy and civil society. Rhodri has spent nearly a decade specialising in public policy around philanthropy and the work of charities, and has researched, written and presented on a wide range of topics. He has a first-class degree in Mathematics and Philosophy from the University of Oxford.   Read more about Rhodri



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