5. Thomas Lord (d. 1989) | Total: $1 billion bequest
Location: Erie, Pa. | Wealth source: Manufacturing | Top cause: Higher education | Bequest will come from four foundations Lord set up before his death, and will be split among foundations that support the University of Southern California, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Duke University and the Cleveland Clinic.
4. Jim Walton | Total: $1.2 billion
Location: Bentonville, Arkansas | Wealth source: Family wealth | Top cause: Various | Gifts will go to the arts and culture, education, parks and recreation nonprofits and other groups.
(Photo: Bloomberg)
3. Eric and Wendy Schmidt | Total: $1.3 billion
Location: Atherton, California | Wealth source: Technology | Top cause: Various | Gifts will include support for a new effort to groom the next generation of public-service leaders.
(Photo: Bloomberg)
2. Barron Hilton (d. 2019) | Total: $2.4 billion bequest
Location: Beverly Hills, California | Wealth source: Family wealth | Top cause: Various | Ninety-seven percent of Hilton’s fortune, contained in two charitable reminder trusts, flowed into the foundation established by his father, Conrad Hilton.
(Photo: Hilton Foundation Website)
1. Michael Bloomberg | Total: $3.3 billion
Location: New York | Wealth source: Media | Top cause: Financial aid | The biggest portion of the donation, $1.8 billion, fulfilled a commitment to ensure that students at Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg’s alma mater, would not have to take out loans and that the institution could admit anybody, regardless of ability to pay. The remaining $1.5 billion went to arts, education, environment, public health, and programs aimed at improving city governments around the world.
(Photo: Bloomberg)


A record five ultra-wealthy donors each contributed more than $1 billion to charity in 2019, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s annual Philanthropy 50, released this week.

The combined contributions of the five donors totaled $9.3 billion, more than the total giving of all donors on the Chronicle’s 2018 list.

The Philanthropy 50 is based on publicly reported contributions as well as extensive research into donors and nonprofits. The Chronicle noted that it was possible some anonymous donors gave as much or more than those on the list; donors are not required to disclose their contributions.

A blog post on the Chronicle’s website noted that America’s wealthiest donors appear to be giving more now in response to growing pressure to close the wealth gap and to address climate change and homelessness and to promote social justice.

It said analysis of individual donors who appeared on both the Philanthropy 50 and the Forbes 400 ranking of the richest Americans showed that they gave away 4.4% of their wealth, on average, in 2019. This compares with the average for the previous five years of just 2.6%.

Still, only 21 donors on the Chronicle’s 2019 list were among the 400 wealthiest Americans, a proportion little changed over the years, according to the blog.

Here are some other notable donors on the new Philanthropy 50:

  • Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, gave $128 million to her foundation and her donor-advised fund
  • Financier Robert Smith gave away $55 million, $34 million of it to pay off debts of Morehouse College’s graduates
  • Puerto Rico-born financier Orlando Bravo directed $100 million to his foundation, which focuses on the commonwealth
  • Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife, Nicole Shanahan, gave $113 million in gifts to their foundation and other nonprofit groups

Read about the top five donors in the gallery above.

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