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Warren Buffet's commitment to charity is creating opportunity for others.
Warren Buffet's commitment to charity is creating opportunity for others. Photo Credit: Contributed by ArtsWestchester

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Warren Buffet had it right when he committed to giving away more than half his money to charity. “If you’re in the luckiest one percent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 percent.”

And, indeed, 86 percent of the $316 billion giving reported in 2012, is by individuals, says Giving USA, an arm of Indiana University.

Buffett’s motivation seems to be about social justice, but it is also about social good. He appears to be a guy who believes in creating opportunity for others and in doing so, fuels ideas, innovations and projects that ultimately have an economic impact on society.

In a new book, “Why Philanthropy Matters,” Zoltan J. Acs advocates that the benefit of philanthropy is that it nurtures innovation and entrepreneurship which is essential for prosperity.

I thought about this connection between entrepreneurship and philanthropy as I pondered a new national study put out by Americans for the Arts in which some 600 corporations of all sizes were surveyed.

Bearing in mind that corporate funds are only six percent of the total giving pie, on the bright side, the survey reports that corporate giving to the arts from 2009 through 2012 is up by 18 percent, reversing some, but certainly not all of the losses during the height of the recession. That is heartening.

What got my head spinning, however, is that 82 percent of this support comes from businesses with less that $50 million in revenue. Even more startling is that 47 percent of that support comes from corporations with less than $1 million in revenue.

Perhaps it’s wishful thinking on my part, but this focus by small business on local markets does seems to underscore the affinity that already exists between the arts and entrepreneurship based in part upon the fact that training in the arts leads to solving problems creatively.

Or, as Warren Buffet said it: “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

Janet Langsman is chief executive officer of ArtsWestchester. Her weekly blog is published with permission of ArtsWestchester and is also posted on the organization's website .

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