A lot of people make the claim, “If I had millions of dollars, I would use it to help people in need.” It’s a noble statement, but meaningless when you don’t actually have the money to back it up.
However, the Giving Pledge has provided some of the wealthiest individuals and families in the country with the perfect opportunity to “put their money where their mouth is.” Two of the people who took the pledge to leave a portion of their wealth to philanthropy—husband and wife Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor—discussed their decision with Nicole Taylor, president and CEO of the East Bay Community Foundation, during Tuesday’s lunch plenary, “Pledge to Lead by Example.”
Steyer, a senior managing member of global investment fund Farallon Capital Management, admitted he initially heard about the Giving Pledge from billionaire Warren Buffet and then presented the possibility of being part of it to his wife.
“Katherine and I discussed it and we absolutely felt strongly about the idea of everybody being part of a community and being connected to each other, so that people who are doing really well can’’t be successful until society is successful,” he explained. “The more we’re tied together explicitly, the better off we all are.”
Kat Taylor, founding director of One PacificCoast Bank and Foundation, said their expectations haven’t changed since signing the pledge. “You aren’t very public about your giving. What did it mean for you and your family to make this statement publicly?” Nicole Taylor asked her. “Did it change your thinking?” Kat Taylor responded that her children and family have been encouraged to be involved in the giving, rather than resentful of it.
Steyer admitted he isn’t a big fan of the p-word that’s generally tied to the pledge. “I hate to say this at a meeting of community foundations, but I’m not really all that fond of the word ‘philanthropy’ because to me, it has connotations of separateness,” he said. “A philanthropist is somebody who’s rich and gives stuff to other people. What I’m interested in participating in are common efforts where it’s certainly helpful to have resources, but you’re involved as part of a community or a team, and there isn’t that implied separateness. You’re pushing forward together.”