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Elon Musk debates how to give away world’s biggest fortune

It would seem philanthropy is on the billionaire’s mind.
Elon Musk. Image: Bloomberg

Elon Musk is not only the world’s richest person, he lays claim to the biggest net worth ever recorded: $209.3 billion as of Friday. What he does with it will be closely watched.

Judging by Twitter, the Tesla co-founder’s preferred medium of communication, philanthropy is on his mind. One of his first reactions on becoming the wealthiest human — after an initial shrug — was to solicit advice on how to give it away.

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Btw, critical feedback is always super appreciated, as well as ways to donate money that really make a difference (way harder than it seems)

Musk, 49, is a philanthropy neophyte compared with those he just leapfrogged on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index of the world’s 500 wealthiest people.

Longtime No. 1 Bill Gates and his friend Warren Buffett, co-founders of the Giving Pledge initiative that urges the ultra-wealthy to donate at least half their fortunes, have each given away tens of billions in cash and stock. Even Jeff Bezos, who has been criticized for being slow to establish himself as a philanthropist, has stepped up his game. He pledged to give $10 billion to issues related to climate change last year and handed out $791 million to 16 environmental groups in November.

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and chief executive officer of Tesla Inc., speaks during a discussion at the Satellite 2020 Conference in Washington, DC, US, on Monday, March 9, 2020. The event comprises important topics facing both satellite industry and end-users, and brings together a diverse group of thought leaders to share their knowledge.

Despite signing the Giving Pledge, Musk has done relatively little publicly in the way of charity. He’s donated more than $257 million to the Musk Foundation — equivalent to about 0.1% of his current net worth — which in turn distributed $65 million between 2016 and 2018 to about 200 nonprofits, according to an analysis by Quartz.

Had Gates not donated so much — or Bezos not gotten divorced — then their fortunes would be much bigger, possibly greater than Musk’s.

Yet Musk has indicated that the reason he’s accumulating wealth is to give it away, or at least redirect it to his passion projects, namely, space exploration. “It’s going to take a lot of resources to build a city on Mars,” he told German publisher Axel Springer last month. “I want to be able to contribute as much as possible.”

‘More aggressive’

“It’s impossible to overstate the potential his fortune could have,” said Benjamin Soskis, senior research associate at the Urban Institute’s Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy. “We’re dealing with a scale which is difficult to fathom.”

The surge in Musk’s wealth means he’ll need to greatly increase the pace of donations to have any shot at fulfilling his pledge to give more than half away, Soskis said. “He needs to be much more aggressive than he’s being now.”

The question from philanthropy experts is how Musk will go about doing so. The world’s richest people have taken a variety of approaches: Gates has become both a full-time philanthropist and public figure in areas like public health. Twitter Inc. co-founder Jack Dorsey has made his giving transparent by posting each donation to a publicly available spreadsheet.

By turning to Twitter to get suggestions for donations, Musk is following in the footsteps of Bezos, who sent out a similar tweet requesting ideas from his followers in 2017. MacKenzie Scott, Bezos’ ex-wife, has pioneered another model for billionaire giving: approaching hundreds of nonprofits and educational institutions and handing over big checks with no strings attached. Her gifts in 2020 totalled nearly $6 billion.

Brian Mittendorf, an Ohio State University professor who studies nonprofits, suggested Musk follow Scott’s lead and restrain his instincts to innovate.

“A trap that many wealthy philanthropists fall into is a desire to reinvent philanthropy on their own, rather than rely on those who already have expertise and experience but simply need the funds in order to expand their impact,” he said.

© 2021 Bloomberg

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Not that he owes anything to his land of birth, he could do wonders to it if he found a way to stimulate it with some of that wealth without feeding the fat useless cadre pigs at the trough

Musk…plz sir
Come to the townships and see how ppl are suffering

Trying to build a city on another planet is not the answer!

Your country needs u more than ever…

Mars use to be like earth n died…now u wanna go n colonize it?

All I need is 50k to start a business lol

Keep making that moola
But remember our government failed us…
Step up

If your Government, that you voted for, has failed you, what is that to him?

He doesn’t owe the country or you anything…
It is that exact mentality of alot of people in this country that we are where we are..
If your gov. failed you why keep voting for them then…? The failing gov. is no one else’s fault but the one’s that keep voting for them over and over again…
Stand up and start doing things for yourself instead of waiting for hand outs!

I can almost guarantee you with 99.99% of surety that even if he was willing to erect a world class city like Dubai in the middle of the arid karoo, but it was run by our current government, it will be runned / ruined into the ground in a very short period of time

End of comments.

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