The Forever Funds Idea:
A Revolution in Charitable Giving?

The "Forever Funds" idea that we are proposing here could easily lead to a beneficial revolution in the way we help the poorest people on earth. Indeed, there may be no better system for permanently erasing poverty from our world.

A "charitable endowment" is (typically) an established fund that provides a continuous stream of revenue for some good cause. The principal investment of the fund remains untouched. A defined percentage of the growth of the fund goes directly to the good cause being supported, while the remainder "grows" the principal. In this way, the fund can have a beneficial and growing effect far into the future.

Unfortunately, very large sums of money are usually required to create a charitable endowment.

Yet, there is no reason this should be so.

A "forever fund" (as we propose it here) would be a charitable endowment that could be created with a very small sum of money: perhaps as little as $100. The fund could be created in the name of someone you love. The principal of the fund would be ethically invested and would generate a stream of revenue to support a good cause forever (or indefinitely) into the future. This fund would be a "fountain of goodwill" that would continue to give long after the creator of the fund was gone.

Let's take an example:

Your mother is about to celebrate her 70th birthday. She is a kind-hearted person and is troubled by the sad state of the poorest people in the world. For many years she has supported (say) Oxfam International or UNICEF in their efforts to help diminish starvation in many places in the world.

For her birthday, you create a $1,000 Forever Fund in her name (say) "The Katherine Smith Forever Fund" (or whatever your mother's name actually is).

The principal sum will be invested in a money market fund that you deem ethically sound. You set up the conditions of the fund as follows: 60% of the "growth" of the fund will be added to the principal, and 40% will go directly to Oxfam International. As long as you are alive, you will manage the fund (though you can never make withdrawls from it). You may choose to change the investment or the beneficiary of the fund as you see fit, presumably in accordance with your mother's ideals.

Wouldn't this be a wonderful way to honor your mother's long commitment to helping the poorest people in the world? She would have the satifaction of knowing that many years after she was gone a "fountain of goodwill" in her name would be help suffering people all over the world!

Furthermore, you might designate that the fund would be open to new contributions. Those who love or admire your mother might choose to add to the principal of her fund! Your mother herself might choose to add to the principal of her fund.

But what would happen when you, the fund manager, die? Who would manage the fund? How would it be invested? And what would happen if Oxfam International or UNICEF were to cease to exist, perhaps absorbed by some other charity?

You would determine the answers to these questions at the time you create the fund. "The Katherine Smith Forever Fund" would be a member of an association of funds that have a similar goal. In the event of your death, you might choose to have this association manage the fund. Or, you might designate someone in your will whom you trust to manage the fund. There are many ways to deal with this issue.

Forever Funds would be ideal holiday gifts! We often hear the (well-founded) lament that the holidays are "too commercial." But what better Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's, Kwanzaa, or birthday gift could you give than to create a permanent fund for good in the name of the person you choose to honor? Truly, this would be compassionate giving in the fullest sense.

Of course, the great question is, how do we make "forever funds" possible?

And therein lies the challenge. As we imagine the progress of this idea, a large and very sophisticated organization like (the philanthropic wing of Google) or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would provide the basic infrastructure. Working with respected financial institutions, a coordinating organization with suitable bylaws would be created to provide the framework for such funds.

Many questions remain to be answered, but we believe the obstacles that lie ahead are not particularly difficult to solve. We are hoping to receive expert support from an organization like Google or Microsoft to work out the details. We have no need whatsoever for money ourselves: all we need is expert advice.

On October 20, 2008, this idea was submitted to Google's "Project 10 the the 100th" for consideration. Google is greatly to be praised for creating such a challenge!

The problem of human poverty is solvable, and we have no doubt it will be solved. But the question is, WHEN? It lies within our power to erase poverty from the world within our lifetimes. The sooner we begin to build a permanent repository of ethical wealth for this purpose, the sooner a truly just and compassionate world will take shape before us.

And whoever you are reading this, YOUR thoughts and suggestions regarding this idea are most welcome. The primary contact person for this project is David Brett Richardson. David works for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory).

You are also most welcome to phone David, should you wish to do so, at either (510) 558-9567 or (510) 604-6337.

You may also email him:

We encourage you to bookmark this simple webpage and to check back from time to time. We hope to update it as new ideas become available.

Thank you for your consideration! May Compassion and Justice triumph on Planet Earth!! forever funds fountain funds