The Ultimate Pledge

MCF Intersection

A regular snapshot of the trends, news and research in the world of philanthropy — and its impact on business.


Charles Butt, chairman and CEO of San Antonio, Texas-based supermarket chain H-E-B, started working in the family business at age 8. After taking the helm of the company at 33 in 1971, he has grown its revenue from $400 million to $25 billion.

While the company, founded by Butt’s grandmother in 1905, has been contributing 5% of its pre-tax earnings to different charities since 1933, Butt’s personal philanthropy has been increasingly focused on strengthening public education from Pre-K to 12th grade over the past 30 years.



Last year, he pledged $50 million to an effort to train Texas public school teachers.

“I believe that a quality education for every child should be a preeminent national goal,” Butt, 80, said in a letter in joining The Giving Pledge, an initiative created by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett in 2010. He has a net worth of $10.7 billion by Forbes’s estimate.

Butt is one of 14 philanthropists to pledge last year to commit more than half of their wealth to charitable causes during their lifetimes or in their wills, according to a news release Wednesday by The Giving Pledge.

Giving away half personal wealth

MCF Intersection

A regular snapshot of the trends, news and research in the world of philanthropy — and its impact on business.


Besides Butt, the other 13 new signatories include Aneel and Allison Bhusri, David G. Booth, Candy and Charlie Ergen, Mario and Regina Gabelli, Reid Hoffman and Michelle Yee, Richard and Melanie Lundquist, as well as Ernest and Evelyn Rady from the United States; Garrett Camp of Canada; Badr Jafar and Razan Al Mubarak, Dr. B.R. Shetty and Dr. C.R. Shetty of the United Arab Emirates;  Rohini and Nandan Nilekani from India, and Shamsheer and Shabeena Vayalil, with citizenship of the United Arab Emirates and India.

Many of the philanthropists are already actively engaged in a range of causes, including education, poverty alleviation, medical and healthcare research, economic development, entrepreneurship, and advocacy and governance, according to the The Giving Pledge.

“Over the past eight years, we’ve been inspired by the dedicated philanthropists who have chosen to join the Giving Pledge, and this year’s group is no exception,” Buffett said in the release.  “They are passionate about using their wealth to help reduce inequities and improve the lives of everyone in the world.”

Plus, he said, “we welcome their energy, enthusiasm, and creativity, and look forward to learning from them as we all work to ensure our giving makes a positive difference.”

There are now 183 individuals who’ve signed onto The Giving Pledge, representing 22 countries. When the initiative kicked off in 2010, it had 40 American signatories.

The Giving Pledge holds an annual learning conference as well as get-togethers throughout the year to discuss how to give smarter and make a bigger difference to the world through philanthropies. This year’s annual two-day conference took place in Seattle this week.