Alwaleed Bin Talal: Saudi Prince’s $32 Billion Gift Shows How Bill Gates Revolutionized Philanthropy

Alwaleed bin Talal announced this week that he would be donating his entire $32 billion fortune to charity, an announcement that just a decade ago would have rocked the world of philanthropy.

But today, Alwaleed is just one of many billionaires pledging to part with their wealth in the name of charity, a modern trend pushed in large part by Microsoft founder and noted philanthropist Bill Gates.

In his announcement this week, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal mentioned Gates specifically, saying he was inspired to give his own fortune after seeing the work the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has done.

“Philanthropy is a personal responsibility, which I embarked upon more than three decades ago and is an intrinsic part of my Islamic faith,” Alwaleed said in the statement via NBC News.

Alwaleed said his gift will serve many purposes, including help to “build bridges to foster cultural understanding, develop communities, empower women, enable youth, provide vital disaster relief and create a more tolerant and accepting world. Alwaleed will take an active role in how the funds are allotted, serving as head of a board of trustees that will guide the donations.

Bill Gates paved the way five years ago after pledging to give his own fortune to charity after his death. In 2010, Gates teamed up with fellow American billionaire Warren Buffet to establish The Giving Pledge, a call for billionaires to commit at least half of their wealth to charity after their death.

The pledge caught on quickly, getting commitments from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hotel mogul Barron Hilton, and CNN founder Ted Turner, among many others. The UK’s Guardian noted that it took just weeks for many others to join in. “We’re hoping America, which is already the most generous society on earth, becomes more generous over time,” Buffet said at the time the pledge launched. At the time, experts wondered if the Gates initiative would catch on.

“I think it’s remarkable that so many people have agreed to go public with their commitments,” said Stacy Palmer, the editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, in an interview with the Guardian. “But I’ll be more convinced that this is truly transforming philanthropy when I see names on the list who aren’t the usual suspects.”

But the commitments have only increased, and the $32 billion pledge this week from Alwaleed bin Talal shows that the pledge has been a success on an international level as well.

[Image via Getty Images/Fayez Nureldine]