Bill and Karen Ackman are trustees of the Pershing Square Foundation. Together with the foundation’s Advisory Board, they shape and approve grantmaking strategies, advocate for the foundation’s issues and help set the overall direction of the organization.
The Ackmans began their major philanthropic efforts in 2006, when they created the Pershing Square Foundation. Since it was founded, the Pershing Square Foundation has committed more than $400 million in grants and social investments to support exceptional leaders and innovative organizations that tackle important social issues and deliver scalable and sustainable impact across the globe.
In 2012, the Ackmans became signatories of The Giving Pledge, committing to give away at least 50% of their wealth to charitable causes. Bill credits his father with instilling in him a sense of duty to give back, recalling in his Giving Pledge letter that he gave away a portion of the first money he ever earned:
“My earliest memories include my father’s exhortations about how important it is to give back. These early teachings were ingrained in me, and a portion of the first dollars I earned, I gave away. Over the years, the emotional and psychological returns I have earned from charitable giving have been enormous. The more I do for others, the happier I am.”
Bill’s also noted in his Giving Pledge Letter that his approach to charitable giving was influenced by the writings of political philosopher John Rawl which he studied as an undergrad at Harvard. In particular, he was inspired by Rawl’s argument that we should all imagine we might have been born into any circumstances and organize society accordingly.