When you think of doing good in the world, the ideas that come to mind are probably closer to a picture of Mother Teresa than Warren Buffett. The debate between pure philanthropists and those who believe capitalism can be a means of helping even more people is an old one. In fact it is so contentious that it has even caused rifts in marriages.
When Warren Buffett and his first wife Susie became wealthy, they argued over how best to contribute to society. Susie believed the couple should give money away there and then while Warren argued that his ability to compound wealth meant he could help even more people later. But the people are suffering today argued Susie. And they will be suffering tomorrow too argued Buffett, but then even more can be helped.
Depending on your viewpoint, you will probably side with Buffett or his wife quite fervently. Regardless of who is right, Buffett ended up winning and decided only much later in life after Susie passed to contribute most of his wealth as part of what is called the Giving Pledge.
You can think of the Giving Pledge as an exclusive list of billionaires who have decided to give most of their wealth away for the betterment of humankind. Many will argue that the allocation of funds is not optimal but regardless of the pros and cons, the reality is the Giving Pledge is probably doing more good than if the funds remained locked in a bank account earning interest and creating even more wealth for a single person or family.
Some companies have adopted a spirit of giving too. And they compliment philanthropy with capitalism. For example, CommonBond is a student lender who came up with the innovative angle that whenever a customer would take out a student loan or refinance a loan, the company would fund the education of a child in need.
Increasingly, companies are sprouting up with this type of model whereby each customer who pays for goods or services results in another person, who cannot afford those same goods or services, receiving a benefit. Lola Tampons is another company that helps those in need. Lola supports women who cant afford feminine hygiene products.
You dont have to necessarily buy a product from such a company to help the world merge capitalism with philanthropy. You could do it for yourself by deciding to donate a portion of your investing gains. For example, if you had an investing account at a brokerage like TD Ameritrade, and made money over the past year you could decide to donate to a charity of your choice or find another avenue to give back to the world.
Even if you decide you are going to give up your regular cup of coffee for a month and allocate the money to a cause that means a lot to you that might be a way to give back. Or you could get creative and think about ways to integrate various parts of your life to form a cohesive mission as advocated by Professor Stewart Friedman in his book Total Leadership.
The idea there is to think about the various categories of your life which are entirely separate and find overlap that leads to a greater outcomes all round. For example, could you raise money at work for a charity run that helps a relative who may be suffering from an autoimmune condition or some other disease.
When you start down the creative path, you will discover opportunities everywhere to give back to the world in meaningful ways without compromising your own day-to-day activities or timeline.