Despite billionaire Warren Buffett's philanthropic drumbeat in 2010, the year was not a good one for charitable giving.
An article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy says donors and nonprofit officials blame fears of continued economic instability and uncertainty about taxes as the cause.
Donations from the Chronicle's list of the 50 top donors (actually numbering 54, due to some tie rankings) totaled $3.3 billion in 2010, the smallest amount since 2000, when the magazine began tracking the biggest donors. Only 17 people on the Chronicle's list of top donors also appeared on the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans. Nine of those on the list gave more than $100 million in 2010, compared with 16 in pre-recession 2007 and 18 in 2006. The amount of the median charitable gift has been dropping since 2007 as well. In 2010, it was $39.6 million, down from $41.4 million in 2009, $69.3 million in 2008 and $74.4 million in 2007.
Top donor on the list was hedge fund manager George Soros ($332 million), followed by New York mayor and entrepreneur Michael Bloomberg ($279.2 million). More than 2/3 of the biggest donors are in New York. Notably absent from the list were Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, but that's because the Chronicle's list only includes new pledges and gifts, and the money donated in 2010 by Gates and Buffett was to pay pledges announced in previous years.
Nearly half of the gifts of $5 million or more were to colleges and universities. However, in a generational shift noted by the Chronicle, philanthropists under age 50 concentrated their donations on medical care, human rights, social entrepreneurship and efforts to improve public schools.
I'm a fan of philanthropy by the wealthy, because theoretically much of their giving is directed to social services, thereby keeping taxes lower for everyone. What do you think of the downward trend in giving by the wealthy, and do you think it will recover as the economy improves?
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