Giving by Top Fifty Donors Jumped 27.5 Percent in 2014, Report Finds

The nation's top fifty donors gave a total of $9.8 billion in 2014, up 27.5 percent on a year-over-year basis, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports.

The increase was fueled in part by a $1.5 billion gift from Bill and Melinda Gates to their foundation and a surge in giving by young Silicon Valley philanthropists, three of whom gave more than $500 million each last year. While the Chronicle's list of the top fifty donors was topped by the Gateses, followed by the late Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., owner of the NFL's Buffalo Bills, who left $1 billion to his foundation, and Ted Stanley, who pledged an estimated $650 million to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, tech entrepreneurs under the age of 40 claimed the fourth, fifth, and sixth spots. Leading the way was WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum, who gave $556 million to establish a donor-advised fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, followed by Napster co-founder Sean N. Parker, who gave a total of $550 million to his family foundation and a donor-advised fund, and GoPro co-founders Nicholas and Jill Woodman, who, like Koum, donated $500 million to establish a donor-advised fund at SVCF. The list includes a total of twelve donors from the tech industry, double the number in 2013, and their $4.6 billion in giving — up from the $1.8 billion the top tech donors gave in 2013 — represents 47 percent of total giving by the nation's top fifty donors.

According to the Chronicle, if giving by tech moguls continues to grow at the current pace, the industry could soon supplant the financial industry as the single largest source of philanthropic giving in the U.S. This year's list includes eleven donors who made their fortunes in finance, down from fourteen last year, while their giving totaled just a quarter of what tech donors on the list gave.

The study also found that $5.8 billion of the dollars tracked, or more than 60 percent of the total, went to seventeen foundations, while $1.5 billion was donated to twenty-five colleges and universities. The report also found that donors age 40 or younger were more likely to make gifts to their foundations or other endowments for distribution at a later time. Michael Moody, a professor at Grand Valley State University's Johnson Center for Philanthropy, told the Chronicle that the money in tech entrepreneurs' DAFs won't necessarily be parked there for long, as younger donors tend to be interested in promoting immediate change, especially in the field of scientific discovery. "They're always looking for a better mousetrap," said Moody. "For a lot of them, that's how they made their significant wealth."

Maria Di Mento, Alex Daniels. "Young Tech Donors Take Leading Role in Philanthropy 50." Chronicle of Philanthropy 02/08/2015.