Top fifty U.S. donors gave $24.7 billion to charity in 2020

Top fifty U.S. donors gave $24.7 billion to charity in 2020

Giving by the fifty biggest donors in the United States totaled $24.7 billion in 2020, with Jeff Bezos topping the list, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports.

The total represents a significant increase over the $15.8 billion given by the fifty biggest donors in 2019, when Michael R. Bloomberg topped the publication's annual Philanthropy 50 list, and the $7.8 billion given in 2018, when Bezos and his then-wife, MacKenzie Scott, ranked first. In 2020, Bezos committed a total of $10.15 billion to charity, including $10 billion to launch the Bezos Climate Fund; the founder was followed on the list by Scott ($5.73 billion), Bloomberg ($1.6 billion), Phil and Penny Knight ($1.36 billion), Jack Dorsey ($1.1 billion), John and Laura Arnold ($567 million), Eric and Wendy Schmidt ($469 million), Pierre and Pam Omidyar ($441 million), Frederick and June Kummer ($300 million), and Denny Sanford ($224 million).

In a year dominated by a global pandemic, a reckoning in the United States with the country's long history of racial injustice, and a sharp economic downturn followed by a K-shaped recovery, the ultra-wealthy supported a broader range of causes than has been the case in recent years, the Chronicle reports, including food pantries, human services agencies, racial justice organizations, and historically Black colleges and universities. 

The Chronicle notes that of the individuals included in the most recent edition of the Forbes 400 — which has Bezos in the top spot — only twenty-three appear among its list of the top fifty donors in 2020, accounting for giving of $22.7 billion, with Bill and Melinda Gates ($157 million) and Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan ($120 million), who rank second and third on the Forbes 400, occupying the thirteenth and sixteenth spots. Of the 154 signatories to the Giving Pledge, nineteen qualified for the Philanthropy 50 list, accounting for a total of $9.8 billion in giving.

Giving Pledger Elon Musk, who recently surpassed Bezos as the richest person in the world and did not make the Chronicle's list, recently pledged $100 million in support of climate change mitigation efforts. 

"It's unconscionable for someone like that to not give in a meaningful way," Center for Effective Philanthropy president Phil Buchanan, referring to Musk, told the Chronicle.

Maria Di Mento. "The Philanthropy 50." Chronicle of Philanthropy 02/09/2021. Ben Gose, Maria Di Mento. "Jeff Bezos, MacKenzie Scott, and Michael Bloomberg top list of America’s 50 biggest charity donors." Chronicle of Philanthropy 02/09/2021. Maria Di Mento. "2020's top donors: 'Forbes 400' and 'Giving Pledge' billionaires who gave big." Chronicle of Philanthropy 01/09/2021.