News and analysis
December 31, 2013

2013’s Biggest Gifts Signal Rebound

Michael Reynolds/EPA/Newscom

Mark Zuckerberg

Big gifts made a comeback in 2013, with America’s wealthiest philanthropists donating a total of more than $3.4-billion to charity, according to a new tally by The Chronicle.

The largest donation came from Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. The couple announced in December that they had provided 18 million shares of Facebook stock, valued at more than $990-million, to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Chan ranked No. 2 on the 2012 list of the biggest single charitable gifts for their first substantial contribution to the foundation, some 18 million shares that were then worth a half-billion dollars.

While this year’s nearly $1-billion gift from Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Chan sets a new record because it comes from philanthropists under 30—the first time donors that young have made the biggest contribution—2013 is also notable because of a strong rebound in the number of gifts of $100-million or more. Fourteen other Americans donated gifts at that level, compared with the 11 who did so last year.

The Chronicle’s annual ranking is based on the 10 biggest publicly announced single gifts; often more than 10 gifts appear on the list because of ties.

The 2012 list included three gifts of $1-billion apiece from Warren Buffett, who donated the sums to his children’s foundations. When that $3-billion is excluded, the other biggest gifts of the year totaled just $2-billion.

It’s not just those who can give $100-million or more who are stepping up their philanthropy. According to The Chronicle’s data, all gifts of $1-million or more totaled nearly $9.6-billion in 2013, compared with $6.1-billion in 2012, another positive sign for nonprofits.

While the gains in the economy are clearly helping boost giving, America’s wealthiest did not give quite as much in 2013 as they did before the recession.

In 2007, the biggest gifts from individuals totaled $4.1-billion and, as in 2013, all of the amounts on that year’s list were at least $100-million.

Biggest Gifts

Colleges and universities were the main beneficiaries of the biggest gifts of the year. Twelve of the 15 donations on the list went to higher-education institutions.

Among them: Philip Knight, a co-founder of Nike, and his wife, Penelope, made the second biggest commitment of the year. The couple pledged $500-million to Oregon Health and Science University Foundation for cancer research and said the university must match the donation within the next two years to receive all of the money.

That gift was followed by a $350-million pledge from Michael Bloomberg to the Johns Hopkins University to promote cross-disciplinary studies and financial aid for undergraduate students.

The full list of the biggest gifts of the year appears below. In February, The Chronicle will unveil its ranking of the most-generous donors of 2013, a list that shows the total donated by each wealthy American over the entire year, not just their single largest publicly announced gifts.

Slideshow: Biggest Gifts Announced by Individuals in 2013

Note: Does not include gifts of artwork or other noncash donations or gifts from anonymous donors.

Send an e-mail to Maria Di Mento.