Taking the Founders Pledge to Donate to Charity Following a Liquidity Event

If there is anything worse than bragging about one's charitable giving, it is bragging about the charitable giving one might accomplish in the future, should one turn out to have the funds to do so. In a world in which establishing cultural norms wasn't so very important to success in non-profit fundraising, none of the audience here would know anything about my donations to the Methuselah Foundation and SENS Research Foundation, made over the years as we moved ever closer to the reality of therapies to treat and reverse aging. But establishing cultural norms is in fact very important in this business of non-profit fundraising. Why does cancer research receive such a large amount of non-profit funding? That has a lot more to do with the culture of charitable giving, and the visibility of giving to cancer research programs, than with the merits of those programs and organizations, or the merits of defeating these medical conditions. It is a great idea to fund effective cancer research, but I don't think that is why most donors give to the cause.

Even in small communities, such as the people who have supported work on rejuvenation biotechnology and other forms of development aiming at the treatment of aging as a medical condition, the broader success of fundraising depends upon as many individuals as possible visibly demonstrating their willingness to donate to the cause. It depends on people talking about it, normalizing the idea that this cause is a great one, and that donating is an eminently sensible action. It depends on those people then putting their funds where their mouths are, and making that a very public action. Obviously I jest when I talk about bragging about charitable donations, but talking loudly about charitable donations is a necessary part of ensuring that a meaningful number of people choose to donate.

The Founders Pledge is an initiative that attempts to make this process of cultural normalization of charitable giving more rigorous and effective in the (on balance) comparatively high net worth communities of entrepreneurs and their investors. If attending Founders Forum events, which are moderately selective for founders likely to succeed, or who have already succeeded, one will sooner or later meet the people who run the Founders Pledge. They would like to see all company founders sign up to donate to charity a meaningful fraction of their gains from an eventual liquidity event, the sale or IPO of the company. The founders choose the charities, the Founders Pledge organization offers resources to help make those choices effective, and the point of the exercise is that eventually this becomes the norm rather than the exception. A more charitable world is better than a less charitable world, given the sizable number of issues that tend to yield only to philanthropy at the outset - and the development of rejuvenation therapies was and continues to be one of those issues.

For me, the Founders Pledge is the Members Club of What I Was Going To Do Anyway, so of course I signed up. I am the cofounder of Repair Biotechnologies, and should the ongoing preclinical development efforts at that company result in a financial windfall for me at the end of the day, an outcome that is considerably less important to me than success in developing therapies that have a meaningful impact on aging, then I will give a third of my gains to charitable causes. Most likely the same organizations that I have supported in the past, the Methuselah Foundation, SENS Research Foundation, and other non-profits such as the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation that have arisen to speed development of rejuvenation research.

Given why the Founders Pledge exists, it would defeat the point for me to take this step and not tell everyone. So here I am, telling everyone. For the founders in the audience, give it some thought. This is a good initiative, and I'd like to think that many of you would also tend to see this as an affirmation of actions that you would have taken anyway. So take the leap.


Im anxious about that MitoMouse has 60$ left and no one seems to donate. Longecity will contribute the rest.

Posted by: thomas. at October 31st, 2019 12:31 PM

@thomas: It has already reached the extension goal of $65,000.

I couldn't donate lately and it will be so for some time. I have some debts to pay.

As for the Founders Pledge, it's like it's in an alternate universe for me.

Posted by: Antonio at October 31st, 2019 4:14 PM

I always imagine what I would do if I won a large (multimillion) lottery. Of course I'd give some to my family and friends, live in a nice house and travel more. But, I'd do anything to avoid taxes (invest in RE), and lso I really would give a meaningful amount to longevity companies (plus it's a write off).

I sometimes think about some of the stupid things wealthy people spend money on. Paris Hilton comes to mind during the great recession when she paid over $100K for a fancy dog house. Wow.

Posted by: Rmcchurch@aol.com at October 31st, 2019 4:30 PM

Thank you, Mr. Reason, for your generous pledge of one-third of your wealth!

Posted by: Zan at November 3rd, 2019 6:37 AM
Comment Submission

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.