Giving by Biggest Donors Jumps to More Than $10 Billion

Charitable giving by the mega-wealthy in 2011 echoed the performance of a volatile but rising stock market, as America's fifty biggest donors gave a total of $10.4 billion, up from $3.3 billion in 2010, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports.

According to the Chronicle's annual ranking of Americans who donated the most, twenty-nine individuals gave at least $50 million in 2011, compared to twenty-two in 2010. The Chronicle also calculated the median giving total for those on the list at $61 million, still below the pre-recession high of $74.7 million achieved in 2007.

Topping the list was Margaret A. Cargill, who died in 2006 and whose estate transferred $6 billion in 2011 to two foundations she had created in her will. The second spot went to the late William S. Dietrich II, a Pittsburgh industrialist who left $500 million to a charitable trust that will primarily benefit universities in the Pittsburgh area. Rounding out the top five were Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, hedge fund legend and Open Society Foundations founder George Soros, and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP, a financial news and information services company.

With the economy continuing to recover, many donors, fundraising executives, and experts in the field predict that giving by the mega-wealthy will continue to be strong in 2012 and beyond. "Consumer confidence is up, business confidence is up modestly," said Eli Broad, who gave $27 million to his foundations in 2011. "If that continues, people will open their purses wider."

Maria Di Mento. "Most-Generous Donors Gave More in 2011 but Still Lag Their Pre-Recession Pace." Chronicle of Philanthropy 02/06/2012.