Jeff Bezos tops list of 'most charitable' donors in U.S. in 2020
Jeff Bezos tops the 2020 list of ‘most charitable’ donors in the U.S. by giving $10billion of his $192billion fortune to his OWN ‘earth fund’ after his ex-wife Mackenzie comes in at No. 2 with $5.7 billion
- Jeff Bezos topped 2020 list of wealthy donors by giving $10billion to earth fund
- The Amazon billionaire’s donation of $10billion launched the Bezos Earth Fund
- Bezos, who last week announced he was stepping down as Amazon CEO to devote more time to philanthropy, also contributed $100m to Feeding America
- Feeding America is an organization that supplies more than 200 food banks
- Coming in at No. 2 is his ex-wife and author, MacKenzie Scott, who gave $5.7billion in 2020 by asking community leaders to identify 512 organizations
- Her donations went to food banks, human-service organizations, racial-justice charities and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs)
Jeff Bezos topped the 2020 list of ultrawealthy donors to charity by giving $10billion of his massive $192billion net worth to his own earth fund as his ex-wife donated nearly $6billion of her $58billion fortune, putting in second place.
Bezos claimed the No. 1 spot on the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s annual rankings of the 50 Americans who gave the most to charity last year.
His donation of $10billion launched the Bezos Earth Fund. Bezos, who last week announced he was stepping down as Amazon CEO to devote more time to philanthropy and other projects, also contributed $100million to Feeding America, the organization that supplies more than 200 food banks.
Coming in at No. 2 on the list was Bezos’s ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott, who gave $5.7billion in 2020.
Scott, who has a net worth of $58.3billion, asked community leaders to help identify 512 organizations for seven- and eight-figure gifts, including food banks, human-service organizations, racial-justice charities and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
MacKenzie was awarded about 4 percent of Amazon in her divorce in 2019. She is said to have played a significant role in starting Amazon, even negotiating its first freight contracts.
Another donor who gave big to pandemic causes and racial-justice efforts was Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter, who ranked No. 5. He put $1.1billion into a fund that by year’s end had distributed at least $330million to more than 100 nonprofits.
The financier Charles Schwab and his wife, Helen (No. 24), gave $65million to address homelessness in San Francisco.
Jeff Bezos topped the 2020 list of ultrawealthy donors by giving $10billion of his $192billion net worth to his own earth fund
Coming in at No. 2 on the list was Bezos’s ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott (pictured), who gave $5.7billion in 2020 by asking community leaders to help identify 512 organizations for seven- and eight-figure gifts, including food banks and human-service organizations
Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings and wife, Patty Quillin (No. 14), gave $120million for financial aid for students at HBCUs.
Basketball legend, Michael Jordan (No. 31), pledged $50million to racial and social-justice groups.
‘When I look at the events of the last year, there was an awakening for the philanthropic sector,’ says Nick Tedesco, president of the National Center for Family Philanthropy.
‘Donors supported community-led efforts of recovery and resiliency, particularly those led by people of color.’
Giving experts say they think the trend toward broader giving is likely to persist.
‘I don’t think this approach is just a 12-month moment that started with COVID and continued following George Floyd and is going to recede,’ says Melissa Berman, president of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, which counsels donors around the world. ‘There has been change building among private donors.’
All told, the 50 biggest donors contributed $24.7billion in 2020, compared with $15.8billion in 2019.
Still, those gifts come from a small share of the billionaire class. Only 23 of the people on the Forbes 400 gave enough to qualify for the list.
Many of the multimillion-dollar donations came from people far less wealthy, like Gordon Rausser, a former dean of natural resources at the University of California at Berkeley.
The Chronicle’s rankings are based on the total amount philanthropists awarded in 2020. The information is based on extensive research with donors, their beneficiaries, and public records.
Some of America’s biggest donors don’t appear on the current Philanthropy 50 even if they have made a big gift to a nonprofit last year. That’s because the Chronicle’s rankings count multiyear pledges only once, as a lump sum in the year the commitment was made.
For example, Warren Buffett is absent from this year’s list even though he gave the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation stock in his Berkshire Hathaway investment firm valued at more than $2.2billion last year.
The donation was an annual installment on his 2006 pledge of more than $36billion in Berkshire shares to the foundation. That same year he also made multibillion dollar pledges to the foundations of his late first wife and his three children.
The No. 3 donor was Michael Bloomberg, who contributed $1.6billion to arts, education, public health, and many other causes. Nike founder Phil and Penelope Knight were next, donating $1.4billion, $900.7million of it to their Knight Foundation.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his pediatrician wife, Priscilla Chan, donated $120million in 2020, putting them at the No. 16 spot
Basketball legend, Michael Jordan (No. 31), pledged $50million to racial and social-justice groups
The $1billion-plus of giving by each of the top five on the Philanthropy 50 matches last year’s record. No more than three donors gave $1billion or more in any of the previous years.
Sixteen donors in this year’s list – nearly a third of the Philanthropy 50 – made their fortunes in technology, and 20 of them live in California.
Joe Gebbia (No. 47), the 39-year-old co-founder of Airbnb, has seen his net worth shoot up to around $12billion following his company’s initial public offering in December.
During 2020, he gave $25million to two San Francisco charities that are tackling homelessness and helping people who have suffered economically due to the pandemic.
‘I’ve been incredibly fortunate and believe that comes with the responsibility of giving back,’ Gebbia says. ‘Where will I take it? The sky is the limit.’
At a time when tech billionaires’ wealth is compounding and many working people are still suffering from the pandemic’s fallout, 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 on the PBS NewsHour.
‘During the pandemic, billionaires made $5.2billion in increased wealth per day,’ he said. ‘All we are asking for is $5billion to avert famine around the world. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.’
Elon Musk, whose $180billion fortune puts him neck-and-neck with Bezos for richest person in the world, is not on the Philanthropy 50.
Musk has faced criticism for his meager lifetime donations, estimated in a recent Vox article at just 0.05 per cent of his current net worth.
Meanwhile, colleges and universities received $2.2billion from Philanthropy 50 donors in 2020.
But Benjamin Soskis, a research associate in 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 give to an HBCU instead of Harvard?” and today’s list, where you can point to donors who actually did that.’
Top 50 Charitable Donors for 2020
Nike co-founder, Philip Knight (pictured) and his wife Penelope Knight, gave $1.4billion, putting them within the top 5 at No. 4
1. Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder
Biggest gift: $10billion to Bezos Earth Fund
2. MacKenzie Scott, author
Biggest gift: Various
3. Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg financial news company
Biggest gift: Various
4. Philip and Penelope Knight, Nike co-founder and wife
Biggest gift: $900.7million to Knight Foundation
5. Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Twitter and Square
Biggest gift: Donor-advised funds
6. John and Laura Arnold, retired hedge-fund manager and wife
Biggest gift: $482million to Laura and John Arnold Foundation
7. Eric and Wendy Schmidt, former Google CEO and wife
Biggest gift: $335.3million to Eric and Wendy Schmidt Fund for Strategic Innovation
8. Pierre and Pam Omidyar, founder of eBay and wife
Biggest gift: Various
9. Frederick and June Kummer, construction magnate (Frederick) and architect (June)
Mike Bloomberg is No. 3 on the list after donating $1.6billion for 2020
Biggest gift: $300million to Kummer Institute Foundation
10. Denny Sanford, banker
Biggest gift: Various
11. Stephen Ross, real-estate developer
Biggest gift: $100million to University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
12. John and Susan Sobrato, real-estate developers
Biggest gift: $135.2million to Sobrato Foundation at Silicon Valley Community Foundation
13. Bill and Melinda Gates, Microsoft co-founder and wife
Amount: $157million (estimated)
Biggest gift: Estimated $157million to Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
14. Reed Hastings and Patty Quillin, Netflix co-founder and wife
Biggest gifts: $40million each to Morehouse and Spelman colleges and United Negro College Fund
15. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook chief operating officer
Biggest gift: $63million to the Sandberg Goldberg Charitable Support Fund
16. Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, Facebook co-founder (Mark) and pediatrician (Priscilla)
Biggest gifts: $60million each to Chan Zuckerberg Donor Advised Fund at Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Chan Zuckerberg Foundation
17. Craig Newmark, Craigslist founder (tie)
Biggest gift: $60 million to Craig Newmark Foundation
17. David and Barbara Roux, technology investor and wife (tie)
Biggest gift: $100million to Roux Institute at Northeastern University
19. Phyllis Brissenden, family wealth
Biggest gift: $48.5million to the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
20. Sergey Brin and Nicole Shanahan, Google co-founder and wife
Biggest gift: $23.9million to Bia-Echo Foundation
Jack Dorsey, the co-founder and CEO of Twitter and Square came in at the No. 5 spot with $1.1billion in charitable giving
21. Irwin and Joan Jacobs, Qualcomm co-founder and wife
Biggest gift: $17.1million to Joan and Irwin Jacobs Fund at the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego
22. George and Renee Karfunkel, businessman and wife
Biggest gift: $66.4million to Congregation Chemdas Yisroel
23. Arthur Blank, Home Depot co-founder
Biggest gift: $65.7million to Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation
24. Charles and Helen Schwab, financial-services company founder and wife
Biggest gift: $65million to Tipping Point Community
25. Hock Tan and Lisa Yang, Broadcom CEO and wife
Biggest gift: $28million for K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Center for Molecular Therapeutics in Neuroscience
26. Wilbur (Billy) and Ann Powers, construction company founder and wife
Biggest gift: $60million to Clemson University
27. David and Dana Dornsife, Chairman of the Board of the Herrick Corporation (David) and founder and CEO of Lazarex Cancer Foundation (Dana)
Biggest gift: $40million to World Vision
28. Robert Smith, financier
Biggest gift: $50million to Student Freedom Initiative
29. Leon and Debra Black, financier (Leon) and Broadway theater producer (Debra)
Biggest gift: $53.8million to Debra and Leon Black Family Fund at National Philanthropic Trust
30. Gail Miller, businesswoman
Biggest gift: $50million to Intermountain Healthcare
31. Michael Jordan, retired basketball player
Biggest gift: Various
32. Richard and Mary Templeton, retired CEO of Texas Instruments (Richard) and computer scientist (Mary)
Biggest gift: $51million to Union College
33. Chris Malachowsky, technology company co-founder (tie)
Biggest gift: $50million to University of Florida
33. Gordon Rausser Venture capitalist, former college dean (tie)
Biggest gift: $50million to University of California at Berkeley
33. Sheldon and Anne Vogel, former Atlantic Records executive and wife (tie)
Biggest gift: $50million to Monmouth Medical Center
36. Ronald and Eileen Weiser, real-estate developer and wife
Biggest gift: $24.5million to University of Michigan Elizabeth Weiser Caswell Diabetes Institute
37. Bob and JoAnn Glick, founder of Dots and wife
Biggest gift: $42million to MetroHealth System
38. Jim and Thomas Duff, businessmen
Biggest gift: $26million to University of Mississippi
39. Richard and Nancy Kinder, businessman and wife
Biggest gift: $40.03million to Kinder Foundation
40. Marc and Lynne Benioff, Salesforce founder and wife (tie)
Biggest gift: $10million to Jane Goodall Legacy Foundation
40. William and Joanne Conway, private-equity firm co-founder and wife (tie)
Biggest gifts: $20million each to Catholic University of America and University of Virginia
40. Haslam Family, founders of Pilot Corporation (tie)
Biggest gift: $40million to University of Tennessee at Knoxville Haslam College of Business
40. Will and Cary Singleton, managers of Singleton Ranches (tie)
Biggest gift: $40million to Saint John´s Health Center Foundation
44. Irvin Kanthak, real-estate investor
Biggest gift: $30million to University of St Thomas
45. Bruce and Debra Grewcock, Kiewit Corporation executive chair and wife (tie)
Biggest gift: $30million to the Colorado School of Mines
45. Daniel and Jennifer Hord, real-estate developers (tie)
Biggest gift: $30million to Baylor University
47. Joseph Gebbia Jr, Airbnb co-founder
Biggest gift: $12.5million each to All Home and Rising Up-Larkin Street Youth Services
48. Richard McVey, financier
Biggest gift: $20million to Miami University
49. Warner and Debbie Lusardi, construction-company executive and wife
Biggest gift: $25.1million to Scripps Memorial Hospital
50. Steve and Jackie Bell, real-estate investor and wife (tie)
Biggest gift: $25million to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
50. Christopher and Lisa Jeffries, real-estate developer and wife (tie)
Biggest gift: $25million to Henry Ford Health System
50. Brad and Alys Smith, technology executive (Brad) and lawyer (Alys) – (tie)
Biggest gift: $25million to Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative at West Virginia University
50. Helena Theurer, businesswoman (tie)
Biggest gift: $25million to Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation
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