Lessons from Bono—and 30 years of charitable giving

As U2's iconic album, “The Joshua Tree” turns 30 in March, 2017, its charismatic lead singer, Bono has become more well-known as a global philanthropist and force to be reckoned with in the sphere of charitable giving.

In 2012, he made Forbes’ “Most Generous Celebrity” list and used even his earliest music as a platform for social change in Ireland. His net worth is estimated at $600 million, according to Forbes.

In a recent interview with Charlie Rose, he said: “Our music was always wrapped around social justice, which is where you and I met—you know—in the fight against extreme poverty. But I—that’s how I got in the door. People weren’t expecting that I wouldn’t leave.”

The work he's done with his non-partisan ONE foundation and numerous trips to Africa with UNICEF have garnered a lot of media attention. Broadly speaking, his main causes have centered around AIDS, Africa and humanitarian causes. He has also given to Greenpeace and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Over 30 years ago, he was involved in Live Aid with Bob Geldof, who was a speaker at the UBS Global Philanthropy Forum.

“Bono has mastered leveraging his celebrity capital, and frankly, he's become an icon in this space,” said Bill Sutton, Head of Client Philanthropy, UBS Financial Services, Inc. “When Live Aid happened, there was a change in guard in terms of how people gave. It became all about making a social change, and less about just getting your name on a building. It was a new and different approach with Bob and Bono, and then celebrities got inspired, as well as other people watching this music uniting people.”

Sutton said that the power of celebrity to inspire can be seen, not only in Bono’s decades of work, but also in Jon Bon Jovi's work on the Jersey Shore, Angelina Jolie's work with the U.N., Christy Turlington's work with Every Mother Counts, and others who take their very public platform and try to use it for good.

Of course, not all philanthropists also happen to be rock stars, but there are traits that make for successful giving initiatives and well-run family plans for pulling the trigger on deploying capital for a variety of causes. And no matter what kind of impact you want to make, ensure your giving strategy is built into your overall financial plan and consistent with your goals.

Key takeaways

  • As U2's iconic album, “The Joshua Tree” turns 30 in March, 2017, its charismatic lead singer, Bono has become well-known as a global philanthropist and force to be reckoned with in the sphere of charitable giving.
  • No matter what kind of impact you want to have, ensure your giving strategy is built into your financial plan and consistent with your overall financial goals.
  • Are you making the most of your giving? Talk to your UBS Financial Advisor.

UBS has extensive experience in helping clients realize their philanthropic vision and make a difference in the causes they care about. 

UBS established the UBS Optimus Foundation to help clients get involved and invest in causes that matter, particularly in improving the health and education of disadvantaged children around the world.

“The world has become so much smaller than before, and continues to become smaller,” said Sutton. “The philanthropic prism through which people look has changed. People want to be more connected to their causes, versus a $20 million check to Harvard."

Sutton said that Millennials give differently than their Baby Boomer parents and grandparents.

“They really want to feel connected to their causes, and it's not just about ‘well, our family has always given to this museum, or the opera,’ but more about wanting to enact change, whether it be global, or close to home. It’s best to have a clear idea of the things that move you. I think that family meetings are a great place to start, so that all generations know where the others stand.”

Is your giving having the impact you want? Together we can find an answer. Connect with your UBS Financial Advisor or find one.