If you follow the lives of some of the world’s richest people, you might have noticed something: they’re big on philanthropy. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and even Mark Zuckerberg have all committed to giving away vast amounts of their wealth, both now and in the future.
This isn’t something new, either. In fact, very wealthy people have been giving away their wealth to improve the conditions of their fellow citizens for centuries. The Rowntrees in the UK, for instance, spent vast quantities of money on new hospitals, roads and schools for their impoverished Victorian brethren. Later, the Rockefellers did something similar in the US, spreading their wealth around.
But what drives this impulse? Early in their careers, many of these individuals are obsessed with money and desperate to grab as much of it as they can. What makes them have a change of heart?
The Scientific Research
Researchers are interested in this question, just as much as the general public. They want to know what it is that makes entrepreneurs tick, and why they so often part with their wealth, even if they worked so hard to acquire it.
There appear to be a couple of reasons: dissatisfaction with money, and a feeling of guilt.
The first one is often quite hard for regular lay people to understand. We tend to think that life will be great, as long as we have enough money. But that’s not always the case. In fact, the quality of your life depends considerably on your inner life: or how you feel in your own mind.
Many entrepreneurs who begin as dissatisfied people eventually discover that money doesn’t help. In fact, it is often a hindrance to their wellbeing, bringing them more responsibilities but without any joy. It is this dissatisfaction that leads them to consider giving it away. Perhaps, they think, being more generous will provide more happiness.
Guilt is another big reason people give away their money. When you have billions of dollars but other people are struggling to cobble together enough money to buy food, it changes your perspective on the world. You wonder why you got so lucky and why other people didn’t.
Is Giving Baked Into Entrepreneurship?
However, if you take a look at what entrepreneurship actually is, you come to a very different conclusion on why people give away so much of their wealth.
Look at the career of Charles Zsebik, for instance. He began by setting up a testing laboratory but then moved into more charitable work. The reason for this was an underlying desire to serve. Entrepreneurs begin by serving in a way that generates money. And then, when they have more than enough for themselves, they begin to look for opportunities to give it away. It’s the same impulse, just expressed in two different formats.
Ultimately, the goal is to unite the rich and poor, bringing everyone up in the process.