The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s annual list of the 10 largest charitable gifts disclosed by individuals or their foundations totaled nearly $9.3 billion in 2022.
Contributions have gone to large, established institutions, including three private foundations and three universities, to support environmental sustainability, children’s mental health and stem cell research. Other gifts were to cancer research and treatment, housing efforts, youth programs and reproductive health.
Two of the gifts exceeded $1 billion, and six of the eight donors (one donor made three gifts) are multibillionaires. The combined wealth of these six donors is just over $325 billion.
Topping the list is Bill Gates, who has given $5 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support the grantmaker’s work in global health, development, policy and advocacy, and US education.
Gates, whose wealth is estimated at 104 billion dollars, drew attention in July when he announced that he donated 20 billion dollars to the foundation he led with his ex-wife Melinda French Gates. However, foundation officials confirmed in December that three-quarters of that $20 billion has been used to pay off the $15 billion he and French Gates pledged in July 2021. The remaining $5 billion was a new infusion for the foundation.
Ann and John Doerr came second with their $1.1 billion donation to Stanford University through the Benificus Foundation to open the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability.
The new school will focus on eight areas of scholarship: climate change, Earth and planetary sciences, energy technology, sustainable cities, the natural environment, food and water security, human society and behavior, and human health and the environment.
The new school will house several academic departments and interdisciplinary institutes. It will also host a “sustainability accelerator” that will provide grants to researchers and others to develop new technologies, advance new policies and support partnerships in environmental sustainability and related arenas, among other efforts.
John Doerr is a venture capital investor who made his mark and much of his fortune as an early backer of Silicon Valley tech giants such as Sun Microsystems, Amazon and Google. Today, he serves as chairman of the investment firm Kleiner Perkins and is worth a little over $9 billion.
The mother and stepfather of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Jackie and Mike Bezos, took the third place. Through the Bezos Family Foundation, the couple gave $710.5 million to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center to build 36 research laboratories and additional major research facilities. The grant will also support the cancer center’s clinical trials and immunotherapy research over the next 10 years.
The couple have been fairly low-profile philanthropists until recently. However, Jackie Bezos has been closely involved in several non-profit projects over the years. At the Aspen Institute, he created the Bezos Scholars Program, the Aspen Challenge, and Rebuilding Students, all educational programs for a variety of age groups. Mike Bezos spent 32 years as an engineer and manager at oil and gas giant Exxon Mobil before retiring and focusing on the couple’s gifts.
The gifts from the Doerrs and Bezoses were followed by one from Warren Buffett. The venerable 92-year-old investor named Warren Buffett, who later gave the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation in 1964 to manage the family’s philanthropic funds, after his first wife, who died in 2004. The foundation supports women’s reproductive health and provides college scholarships for students in the foundation’s home state of Nebraska.
A representative for Buffett confirmed that the gift was not one of his annual donations to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation and several other grantmakers, but a special one-time contribution he decided to make in late November. announced his promises in 2006.
The late Ruth DeYoung Kohler II is fifth on the list. The Kohler Company heir, who died in 2020 at age 79, left a $440 million bequest to launch the Ruth Foundation for the Arts, a Milwaukee grant-maker dedicated to supporting visual and performing arts groups across the country. It plans to award about $20 million a year. Kohler was an avid supporter of the arts and directed the John Michael Kohler Center for the Arts in Sheboygan, Wisconsin from 1972 to 2016.
Kohler II is followed by novelist and Amazon co-founder MacKenzie Scott, who gave $436 million to Habitat for Humanity International. The gift, as with most of Scott’s gifts, was unrestricted. When Habitat for Humanity officials announced the gift in March, they said they planned to use the money to address the global housing crisis and advocate for system-wide changes to increase fair access to affordable housing for everyone.
Two additional gifts from Scott — $281 million to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and $275 million to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America — also made the list.
The Chronicle’s annual ranking is based on the 10 largest publicly announced gifts. The calculation does not include contributions of works of art or gifts from anonymous donors. In February, the Chronicle will release its annual ranking of the 50 largest donors, based not on individual gifts but on individuals’ total contributions in 2022.
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