The world now has 1,426 billionaires with a collective $5.4 trillion. Among these are many of the biggest philanthropists in the world – but their donations aren’t always optimally cost-effective.
Among Carlos Slim Helu’s donations is a $250 million investment into Mexican sports programs, for example. Ted Turner has given $1 billion to the United Nations. T. Boone Pickens has given $500 million to Oklahoma State University. $424 million from the Reader’s Digest fortune went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
These are all admirable decisions but their positive impacts pale in comparison to what the same amounts of money could have done for the world’s poorest places and people. Since the world’s money is so unevenly distributed, it probably makes more sense for effective altruist campaigns to target those privileged few that hold the majority of the world’s money, rather than focusing on the masses, who have many orders of magnitude less to give, even if there are far more of them.
The difference between the world’s average people and the world’s wealthiest people is vast beyond imagination. Influencing a single billionaire might be more effective than influencing 100,000 middle class people. Even the massive donations named above are only a tiny fraction of what Warren Buffett ($31 billion) and Bill Gates ($28 billion) have pledged to charities. With more and more billionaires signing Bill Gates’s Giving Pledge, there should be increased concern in how these billions of dollars are to be spent.
I don't know of any meta-effective altruist work appealing specifically to the world’s extremely rich. There’s a vastly higher expected utility in appealing to these people, especially since most of them are already prepared to donate large sums of money away, just not necessarily to cost-effective causes.