The biggest American philanthropists increased their donations by 27.5% in 2014, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s 15th annual Philanthropy 50 list of America’s most generous donors.
Mega-gifts by technology entrepreneurs drove this increase, The Chronicle reported.
Twelve donors on the list came from the technology world, and their giving was outsize compared with that of people in other industries, The Chronicle found.
It represented 47% of the $9.8 billion in donations made by the Philanthropy 50 in 2014.
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The report said giving by Philanthropy 50 donors who amassed their fortunes in technology had increased by more than 1,000% over the past five years, whereas 2014 donations from people who made money in finance had dropped to near 2012 levels.
It said this trend could end finance moguls’ dominance among the nation’s largest philanthropists. Eleven of the donors on the Philanthropy 50 list made their wealth in finance, compared with 14 on last year’s list.
The donors in finance provided a little more than $1 billion last year, just a quarter of what the tech donors gave. Non-tech donors contributed 42% of the total last year.
The Chronicle based its Philanthropy 50 list primarily on gifts and pledges of cash and stock to nonprofit organizations.
It said rankings were based on new commitments philanthropists made to their foundations and to other nonprofits in 2014, and did not count payments on past pledges, to avoid counting the same gifts twice.
This left some of America’s biggest donors off the current Philanthropy 50 list even though they had written big checks to charity last year.
Warren Buffett, for example, continued to follow through on a long-term commitment he had made in 2006.
The report noted that much of the money donated last year by the top 50 American philanthropists had not yet been earmarked for a cause, which could result in more demands on Capitol Hill and elsewhere for donor-advised funds and other endowments to distribute their dollars faster.
Despite the presence on the top 50 list of eight couples or individuals under 50, the median age of those making big donations was 73, about the same as last year, The Chronicle noted.
Some 60% of the total donated by the top 50 last year — $5.8 billion — went to 17 foundations, the most money given to any type of entity, followed by $1.5 billion to 25 colleges and universities.
Donors under 40 were especially likely to put their money into foundations and other endowments for later distribution, The Chronicle reported. It said their early gifts pointed to where their dollars would flow eventually.
Michael Moody, who teaches at Grand Valley State University’s Johnson Center for Philanthropy, told The Chronicle that young donors were not interested in building endowments. Rather they wanted to promote immediate change, especially accelerating the pace of scientific discovery.
“They’re always looking for a better mousetrap,” Moody said. “For a lot of them, that’s how they made their significant wealth.”
Many other philanthropists made their biggest gifts to colleges and universities.
Following are the 10 most generous donors on The Chronicle’s 2014 Philanthropy 50 list:
10. Paul Allen
Allen founded the investment firm Vulcan and co-founded Microsoft.
2014 donation: $298 million
Main beneficiaries: Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and Allen Institute for Cell Science
9. Sergey Brin
Brin was a co-founder of Google.
2014 donation: $383 million
Beneficiary: Brin Wojcicki Foundation
8. Rachel Lambert (Bunny) Mellon
Bunny Mellon, an heiress and widow of Mellon bank fortune scion Paul Mellon, died in 2014.
2014 donation: $411 million
Main beneficiaries: Nonprofits, chiefly the Gerard B. Lambert Foundation to establish an educational institution for the study of botany and horticulture at her Upperville, Virginia, Oak Spring Farm estate.
7. Michael Bloomberg