One of the recent trends in philanthropy is record-breaking gifts from the wealthiest individuals in the United States. Last year, more than five people donated in excess of $1 billion. This is the first time in history so many individuals have given this much to charitable causes.
Industry experts think that the sense of urgency among the wealthiest in America to address social and environmental issues has driven this surge. Recent movements have put more pressure on the wealthy to close the inequality gap and work toward resolution of longtime problems like homelessness.
Michael Bloomberg Top Philanthropy 50 List
One of the biggest donors in recent history is Michael Bloomberg, who was recently placed at the top of the Philanthropy 50 list. Bloomberg has made it on the Philanthropy 50 list 14 times since its inception two decades ago. Over the course of his life, he has donated a total of $9.5 billion. Over the past year, Bloomberg has donated an impressive $3.3 billion.
The largest single donation he made consisted of $1.8 billion for Johns Hopkins University, his alma mater. This donation was meant to ensure that the university can admit anybody regardless of their ability to make tuition and prevent those students who cannot afford the bill from taking out student loans.
Remarkably, Bloomberg has already announced that he plans to spend about $1 billion on politics this year as he mounts a presidential campaign. Despite this, his giving throughout 2020 will likely continue to be high in comparison to the amount he is spending on himself.
After all, he has taken a vow to give away the majority of his fortune while he is still alive, and he is worth $60 billion according to Forbes. This high net worth and focus on giving is what has fueled his high giving. It will likely continue to put him at or near the top of all philanthropic spenders for years to come.
The Other Top Donors on the Philanthropy 50 List
Bloomberg was not the only philanthropist to give big throughout 2019. Another leader in total amount donated is Barron Hilton, the head of the hotel company who actually passed away last year. However, as part of his will, he left $2.4 billion to a foundation created by his father, Conrad Hilton.
The former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, was another big donation. Together with his wife Wendy, he gave $1.3 billion in total to a variety of causes, including a project aimed at developing a new generation of leaders interested in public service.
The Walmart heir Jim Walton was also a big giver. He has donated $1.2 billion to an array of causes including parks and recreation, education, and the arts.
Another deceased donor who topped the list is Thomas Lord. He gave more than $1 billion upon his death to foundations that support several organizations, including the Cleveland Clinic, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Southern California.
Altogether, the five top donors gave $9.3 billion in 2019, which is more than all the people included on the Philanthropy 50 list in 2018 gave in total. In other words, there was a big shift toward philanthropy that occurred between these two years. People in general are giving more than they previously had to charity.
An analysis performed by The Chronicle of Philanthropy found that people appearing on both the Philanthropy 50 and Forbes 400 lists donated an average of 4.42 percent of their wealth in 2019. This is substantially higher than the 2.59-percent recorded in 2018. At the same time, only 21 of the donors on the Philanthropy 50 list are also on the Forbes 400 list, which tracks the wealthiest individuals in the country.
Other Notable Donors Included on the Philanthropy 50 List
Many other notable people were included on the Philanthropy 50 list, such as Sergey Brin of Google fame. He and his wife made more than $113 million in gifts to various foundations and nonprofits. Last year, his wife started the Bia-Each Foundation, which tackles climate change while also supporting work on reproductive longevity and revisions to the criminal justice system.
Another highlight on the list is Frank and Joan Randall. They donated several dozen millions of dollars to the Banning Ranch Conservancy to protect a 401-acre swath of land close to Newport Beach, California, from development.
The highest-ranking woman on the list was Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook. She donated a total of $128 to her own foundation and donor-advised fund, which primarily works to address issues of gender equality, education, and poverty.
Another honorable mention is Robert Smith, a financier who gave more than $55 million in total. This includes giving $34 million to Morehouse College to help pay off the debts of its students.
Another financier on the list is Orlando Bravo, who was born in Puerto Rico. He gave $100 million to his foundation, which focuses primarily on the needs of his home island. The foundation encourages entrepreneurship in Puerto Rico and he backs up this investment by providing mentors to Puerto Ricans from his own business.