The Giving Pledge

“We have never particularly liked the expression about ‘giving until it hurts,’ but rather we suggest that the better standard might be—‘Give until it feels good.’”

— From the closing of Bill and Joyce Cummings’ Giving Pledge Letter

Joyce and Bill Cummings at the White House

Bill and Joyce Cummings visit the White House

Give Until it Feels Good

Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet

As of 2020, 210 prominent people or couples from 23 countries have joined The Giving Pledge, publicly pledging to donate the majority of their wealth for philanthropic purposes, either during their lifetimes or upon their deaths.

In 2011, Bill and Joyce Cummings became the first Massachusetts couple to take the Pledge, which was started in 2010 by billionaire investor Warren Buffet and Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates of Microsoft fame. All members are billionaires or would be if they had not already donated most of their wealth. Many have pledged to donate 90 percent or more of their assets; the Cummings had already done so.

The Giving Pledge holds learning sessions throughout the year, including an annual two-day learning conference. The conference offers opportunities for members to discuss their experiences and learn from other signatories—and outside experts—about how to be most effective with their philanthropy. The Cummings have attended several such events, which are very much “working” sessions. Past gatherings have included discussions on education reform, poverty alleviation, medical research, international giving, and effective collaboration.

At one such session, the Cummings joined the Gateses, Buffet, and a number of other Pledge members at the White House. President Barack Obama personally chaired a two-hour meeting focused largely on how philanthropists and government agencies might better work together to accomplish more.