Jack Dorsey, Reed Hastings and Charles Schwab among top 50 U.S. charitable donors for 2020


By MARIA DI MENTO and BEN GOSE from La Chronique de la Philanthropie

As the world grapples with COVID-19, a recession and racial calculation, the ultra-rich have donated to a wider set of causes than ever before – delivering multi-million dollar giveaways to pantries, historically black colleges and universities and organizations that serve the poor and homeless, according to the The annual Chronicle of Philanthropy rankings of the 50 Americans who gave the most to charity last year.

Another cause that has caught the attention of billionaire philanthropists: climate change. Jeff Bezos tops the list by donating $ 10 billion to start the Bezos Earth Fund. Bezos, who announced last week that he was stepping down as CEO of Amazon to devote more time to philanthropy and other projects, also contributed $ 100 million to Feeding America, the organization that provides over 200 food banks.

Number 2 on the list was Bezos’ ex-wife MacKenzie Scott, who donated $ 5.7 billion in 2020 asking community leaders to help identify 512 organizations for seven- and eight-digit giveaways, including food banks, social service organizations and justice charities.

Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, ranked No.5, is another donor who has given a lot to the causes of the pandemic and to racial justice efforts. He invested $ 1.1 billion in a fund that, by the end of the year, had distributed at least $ 330 million to more than 100 nonprofits.

Financier Charles Schwab and his wife, Helen (# 24), have donated $ 65 million to tackle homelessness in San Francisco. Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings and his wife Patty Quillin (# 14) have donated $ 120 million in financial aid to historically black college and university students. Great basketball player Michael Jordan (# 31) pledged $ 50 million to racial and social justice groups.

“When I look at the events of the past year, there has been a revival for the philanthropic sector,” says Nick Tedesco, president of the National Center for Family Philanthropy. “Donors have supported community-led recovery and resilience efforts, especially those led by people of color. “

Donation experts say they believe the trend towards larger donations is likely to continue.

“I don’t think this approach is just a 12 month moment that started with COVID and has continued to follow George Floyd and will step back,” said Melissa Berman, president of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, which advises donors around the world . “There have been changes among private donors. “

In total, the top 50 donors contributed $ 24.7 billion in 2020, up from $ 15.8 billion in 2019. Yet these donations come from a small portion of the billionaire class. Only 23 of the Forbes 400 people donated enough to qualify for the list. Most of the multi-million dollar donations came from people much less wealthy, like Gordon Rausser, former dean of natural resources at the University of California at Berkeley.

The Chronicle’s rankings are based on the total amount given to philanthropists in 2020. The information is based on extensive research with donors, their recipients and public records.

Donor # 3 was Michael Bloomberg, who has donated $ 1.6 billion to the arts, education, public health and many other causes. Next were Nike founder Phil and Penelope Knight, donating $ 1.4 billion, including $ 900.7 million to their Knight Foundation.

Donations of over $ 1 billion from each of the top five Philanthropy 50s match last year’s record. No more than three donors have given $ 1 billion or more in previous years.

Sixteen donors on this year’s list – nearly a third of the 50 Philanthropies – have made their fortunes in tech, and 20 of them live in California.

Joe Gebbia (# 47), the 39-year-old Airbnb co-founder, saw his net worth soar to around $ 12 billion following his company’s IPO in December. In 2020, he donated $ 25 million to two San Francisco charities that are fighting homelessness and helping people who have suffered economically because of the pandemic.

“I have been incredibly lucky and I think it comes with the responsibility to give back,” Gebbia says. “Where am I going to take it?” Sky is the limit.”

In an era when the wealth of tech billionaires is worsening and many workers still suffer from the fallout from the pandemic, philanthropic expectations have never been higher. David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations World Food Program, highlighted the disparate effects of the pandemic in a January interview with PBS NewsHour.

“During the pandemic, billionaires made $ 5.2 billion in increased wealth per day,” he said. “All we are asking for is $ 5 billion to avert world famine. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Elon Musk, whose $ 180 billion fortune puts him neck and neck with Bezos for the richest person in the world, is not a member of the Philanthropy 50. Musk has been criticized for his meager lifelong donations, estimated in one recent Vox article at just 0.05%. of his current net worth.

If small and medium charities were the notable winners in 2020, does that make big universities the losers? Barely. Colleges and universities received $ 2.2 billion from Philanthropy 50 donors in 2020.

But Benjamin Soskis, an associate researcher at the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute, says the most striking change with this year’s Philanthropy 50 list is that it presents a plurality of options for giving.

“There’s a big difference between a hypothetical ‘Why didn’t you donate to an HBCU instead of Harvard?’ and today’s list, where you can indicate which donors actually did this.

More details on the Philanthropy 50 are available at philanthropy.com.


This article was provided to The Associated Press by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Maria Di Mento is a senior journalist at The Chronicle. Email: maria.dimento@chonicle.com. The AP and The Chronicle receive support from the Lilly Endowment for coverage of philanthropy and nonprofit organizations. The AP and the Chronicle are solely responsible for all content.

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