Everyone knows states like New York and California have more than their share of wealthy philanthropists; it just makes sense, with Silicon Valley and Wall Street spewing geysers of cash to well-placed individuals.
But big donors can be found in all 50 states — and don’t forget the District of Columbia.
To compile this list, The Chronicle took a deep dive into its Philanthropy 50 data going back to 2000. We also used information about donations made public over the past decade that appear in our online gifts database, and other Chronicle coverage of wealthy donors.
All told, the donors on our list have given more than $84.7 billion to charity since the early 2000s. The Nebraska-based investment guru Warren Buffett is responsible for more than half of the total, pledging more than $46 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and to other nonprofits in 2006.
Ten states are home to a donor who has given away at least $1 billion to charity, and Nebraska, Washington, California, and New York are home to the biggest multibillion-dollar donors.
Charitable donors are not required by law to disclose their gifts, and many prefer to give quietly or anonymously, so this list may not include every major gift. Please contact The Chronicle if you know of a donor we’re missing in your neck of the woods.
The biggest living donors by state since 2000:
At least $50 million
Co-founded the Mitchell Company, a real-estate firm in Mobile, Ala.He has given a number of gifts to the University of South Alabama, including $50 million in 2013 for scholarships and the Mitchell College of Business and a joint $22 million donation in 2006 with his brother Mayer for cancer research.
Bill and Kate Corbus
Mr. Corbus owned Alaska Electric Light and Power Company until he sold it to Avista Utilities in 2014.Their gift to the Juneau Community Foundation established five funds to support local programs and help those in need in the Juneau area and for grants to support a number of arts, conservation, and culture organizations in Juneau.
He is chief executive of Fulton Homes. He gave a total of $155 million to Arizona State University for education and engineering programs, including $100 million in 2005. He also gave $20 million to Brigham Young University and $10 million to the Huntsman Cancer Foundation.
Jim and Robson Walton
At least $182.3 million
Their father, Sam Walton, founded the retail giant Walmart.Brothers Jim and Robson Walton together gave Walmart stock valued at about $182.3 million to charity, some of which went to their Walton Family Foundation.
Gordon and Betty Moore
He co-founded the Intel Corporation.The Silicon Valley pioneer and his wife gave their family foundation stock valued at more than $5.8 billion in 2001. The grant maker backs environmental conservation, patient care, science, and efforts benefiting the Bay Area. They have also given several large personal donations over the years, including two big gifts totaling $400 million to Cal Tech and $50 million to the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center.
He is chairman of Liberty Media Corporation, a media and entertainment investment company, and Liberty Global, a cable and broadband internet service provider.He has given large donations both personally and through his family foundation. His biggest gifts include $50 million to Yale University School of Engineering & Applied Science and $24 million to the university for the Daniel L. Malone Engineering Center, named for his father; $42.5 million to Colorado State University for medical research; and $30 million to the Johns Hopkins University for an engineering building.
Ray and Barbara Dalio
Mr. Dalio runs the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates.They gave $65 million to their Dalio Foundation in 2015 and have given other donations over the years. Their grant maker supports environmental, medical research, and K-12 education causes.
Robert and Jane Gore
He is a former president of W.L. Gore and Associates, a manufacturer of fabrics for outdoor use and the inventor of Gore-Tex fabric. They gave big donations to Mr. Gore’s alma maters: $10 million to the University of Minnesota and $11 million to the University of Delaware. Their gifts have primarily backed science and engineering programs.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Stephen and Diana Goldberg
He founded the Stephen A. Goldberg Company, a real-estate development firm.They have given a total of $50 million to Children’s National Medical Center (two donations of $25 million each, one in 2001 and another in 2008), in Washington, and smaller gifts to health and human-service groups.
Phillip and Patricia Frost
He is a dermatologist who founded Ivax, a pharmaceutical company he sold in 2006 to Teva Pharmaceutical Industries for $7.4 billion. She is a retired elementary-school principal. Today he leads OPKO Health, a pharmaceutical company.Their $100 million donation to University of Miami went to applied sciences and engineering programs, and they gave the institution $33 million in 2003 for the Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music. They have also given $45 million to the Miami Science Museum and donations to Scripps Research Institute-Florida.
At least 1.2 billion
He founded Turner Broadcasting System and CNN and served as vice chairman of AOL Time Warner.The media mogul pledged $1 billion in 1997 to the United Nations Foundation and made the final payment on that commitment in 2014. He pledged $250 million to the Nuclear Threat Initiative in 2001 and has also given large sums to conservation and education groups.
Pierre and Pam Omidyar
More than $1.7 billion
He founded the online auction and trading site eBay; she founded HopeLab, a digital technology company that develops tools to assist children and young adults with chronic illnesses.They support public affairs and a variety of other causes through the nonprofit arm of their Omidyar Network, including human trafficking and children’s health.
John and Elena Hemmingson
He founded the investment firm Lakeside Capital Group.His donation to Gonzaga University helped pay for a new building that houses the institution’s dining hall as well as academic and other spaces.
At least $302.5 million
Founded Harpo, a multimedia entertainment company.The media mogul and television personality has given large donations personally and through her foundation to back education groups and programs for women and children. She established the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls-South Africa, which opened its doors in 2007.
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi
He founded Sandor Development Company, a real-estate developer.The couple have given primarily to medical causes and to Indiana University.
John and Mary Pappajohn
He founded the venture-capital firms Equity Dynamics and Pappajohn Capital Resources.They gave $26.4 million for the University of Iowa’s Institute for Biomedical Discovery, and they donated to the Des Moines Art Center, Iowa State University, and other groups.A self-made investor, Mr. Pappajohn was born in Greece and came to the United States with his family when he was an infant.
Jack and Donna Vanier
The couple own and operate CK Ranch in Brookville, Kansas.They have given to Kansas State University for a variety of programs.
He is a retired president of Airgas Mid America, a welding gas and supplies distributor. His donation to Western Kentucky University included cash and property. It supported financial aid and will help pay the maintenance costs of a home and gardens the university will receive upon his death.
She is the widow of the late Robert Nims, an amusement-company executive.She gave $10 million to the University of New Orleans for scholarships and an art gallery and to other education and human-service groups.
About $94 million
She co-founded the cosmetics and skin-care company Burt’s Bees. Among other donations, she gave tens of thousands of acres of land, as well as a cash gift, to the National Park Foundation to create and endow Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
He co-founded the private-equity firm the Carlyle Group. A longtime donor to historic groups and national monuments in the greater Washington area, he also supports arts organizations, medical research, and his alma maters, Duke University and the University of Chicago.
He founded McCourt Global, a real-estate development and private-equity firm. The donation to Georgetown University endowed the McCourt School of Public Policy and backed research and financial aid.
At least $336.3 million
He is an architect and heir to the Stryker Corporation fortune. The medical-products company was founded by his grandfather, Homer Stryker, a surgeon who invented the mobile hospital bed. He gives primarily to his Arcus Foundation, which he created in 2000 to pursue two grant-making priorities: to combat discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people; and to ensure the survival of great apes and their habitats.
He founded the electronics and appliance retailer Best Buy. He and his wife, Sandra, who died in 2001, gave $50 million to the University of St. Thomas in 2000 for entrepreneurial-education programs, scholarships, and the law school. Mr. Schulze primarily supports education, human-service groups, and medical research through a family foundation.
He led Netscape in the 1990s and later founded the Barksdale Group, an investment and advisory firm. His gift to the University of Mississippi created the Barksdale Reading Institute, a literacy program for Mississippi children.
Emily Rauh Pulitzer
A former curator at the St. Louis Art Museum, she is the widow of the late Joseph Pulitzer Jr., who was chairman of the Pulitzer Publishing Company.She gave $45 million, along with an art collection, to Harvard Art Museum and smaller gifts to the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, an institution in St. Louis that is named for her family.
Dennis and Phyllis Washington
He founded the Washington Companies, a holding company for transportation, mining, and shipping businesses. They conduct much of their giving through their family foundation. They gave $20 million last year to Young Life, a Christian youth organization, for a camp they helped create in 1998 when they donated 64,000 acres of land in Oregon. They have given smaller contributions to the University of Montana and the Montana Digital Academy.
He is chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway.The "Sage of Omaha" made history in 2006 when he pledged stock then valued at about $36.1 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest charitable donation ever made. He also committed stock valued at about $3.6 billion to his late wife’s Susan Thompson Buffett foundation, and roughly $1.3 billion apiece to foundations run by his three children. He also gave the Nuclear Threat Initiative $50 million that year. In 2012 he gave an additional $3.1 billion to his children’s philanthropies.
Sheldon and Miriam Adelson
At least $375.8 million
He leads the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which develops hotels and resorts. She is a physician who specializes in treating drug abuse and addiction.They back Jewish causes through their Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Foundation and the Adelson Family Foundation. They also back education and human-service groups and are long-time supporters of Birthright Israel.
She is the widow of John Byrne Jr., the former head of Geico Insurance, who died in 2013. A $20 million gift to Dartmouth College two years ago created the Jack Byrne Scholars Program in Math and Society; and $1 million went to Vermont Public Radio. She gives primarily through a family foundation that supports Dartmouth College, cancer research, and charities in New Hampshire and Vermont.
He founded the hedge fund Appaloosa Management. He has given at least $122 million to Carnegie Mellon University, his alma mater, and through his foundation, he supports arts, education, and human-service organizations.
She is the widow of the late Jack Rust, who founded Rust Tractor. A $10 million gift to Presbyterian Healthcare Services went toward a new medical center, and a $3 million donation backed a nursing program.
He is a former mayor of New York City and founded Bloomberg LP, a financial data and media company. The media mogul has given billions over the years, primarily to his Bloomberg Philanthropies, through which he supports arts, education, environmental, and public-health groups and programs aimed at improving city governments around the world. Some of his most prominent recent efforts have included a $60 million grant to the Shed Arts Center, a new arts and culture venue in New York that is scheduled to open in 2019; and $25 million for a global drowning-prevention program.
He started SnapAV, a manufacturer and distributor of audio-visual equipment, and later sold it to the private-equity firm General Atlantic. His gift created the ClearPath Foundation to promote clean-energy efforts and green-energy business opportunities and to attract conservatives and centrists to those efforts.
Rodney and Carolyn Paseka
At least $5 million
He is chief executive of Hebron Brick, a brick-manufacturing company. They gave to their alma mater, Minnesota State University Moorhead, to endow scholarships for business-school students and for other programs.
She is the widow of Alfred Lerner, who led the MBNA Corporation, a financial-services company, and owned the Cleveland Browns football team. A gift to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in 2002 backed patient care, research, and education at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. He died several months after announcing the gift.
The Green family
The family founded Hobby Lobby, a chain of craft stores. The Greens gave to Oral Roberts University to shore up its finances after the failure of its City of Faith medical complex and the alleged misspending by a former president. The family stipulated that to receive all the money, which it did in 2008, the university had to develop a new governance and financial plan and meet additional conditions.
Phil and Penny Knight
He co-founded the athletic wear company Nike.They have given extensively to Oregon Health & Science University and to the University of Oregon, each of which have received $500 million gifts for medical research in recent years. The Knights have also given big gifts to Stanford University for its management school and a scholarship program.
Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest
More than $1 billion
He founded Lenfest Communications, which he sold to Comcast Corporation in 2000.They have given personally and through their foundation primarily to support education and arts and culture organizations. Some of their largest donations in recent years include tens of millions to the American Revolution Center, Columbia University, the Curtis Institute of Music, Lenfest Scholars Foundation, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Washington and Lee University, among dozens of other nonprofits.
The family founded the Hasbro toy company in 1923.The Hassenfelds have primarily supported pediatric medicine. They gave $50 million to New York University Langone Medical Center to build a pediatric hospital, and they helped build the Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, R.I. They have also given to higher education, including a $12.5 million donation to create a child-health institute at Brown University and a gift to the Brandeis University International Business School.
A banker earlier in her career, she is currently a partner in the Rainwater investment firm. Her gifts to the University of South Carolina at Columbia have supported the business school and aerospace research.
More than $1.1 billion
He is chairman of United National Corporation, a banking business. He has given significantly to medical research centers in South Dakota and in San Diego, Calif., and also supports education and efforts that help children. Some of his largest donations include $400 million to create the Sanford Health Foundation in 2007, to which he donated an additional $225 million in later years; $100 million to the University of California at San Diego; $70 million to the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority; and $50 million to the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute.
James and Natalie Haslam
He founded and operates Pilot Flying J, a chain of travel centers throughout the United States. Their donations to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville have backed research, scholarships, and other programs. The business school was named for them in 2014.
John and Laura Arnold
He founded Centaurus Energy, a hedge fund. She is a former corporate lawyer. These Houston philanthropists have been putting significant sums into their family foundation every year since they established it in 2008. Through the grant maker, they back organizations trying to solve social problems; charter schools and school governance efforts; public safety and criminal-justice system programs; and projects to improve the nation’s health-care system. They also give large personal gifts to a variety of nonprofits in Texas and elsewhere.
Jon and Karen Huntsman
At least $917.2 million
He founded the Huntsman Corporation, a chemical company. Major donors to nonprofits in Utah, they gave their largest public donation, $700 million in 2007, to endow their family foundation. The grant maker focuses on cancer research and treatment, domestic violence, education, and homelessness. They have also donated a total of at least $175 million to the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Center and have given smaller sums to many other charities.
Robert and Christine Stiller
He founded Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. They give primarily through their family foundation. Some of their larger gifts include $10 million to Fair Trade USA, a nonprofit that certifies fair-trade products in the United States and advocates for family farms and farm workers. They have given at least $11 million to Champlain College for business programs and child care for students who are single parents, among donations to other nonprofits.
She is the widow of Frank Batten Sr., who founded the media company Landmark Communications. He died in 2009.The Battens have given mostly to education. They have given a total of $160 million to the University of Virginia, including $100 million to its law school to create the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. They also donated $70 million to endow Culver Academies. Mr. Batten graduated from the private academy in 1945.
Bill and Melinda Gates
He co-founded Microsoft. The two wealthiest Americans (their net worth is approaching the $90 billion mark) have been funneling nine- and 10-figure gifts into their foundation each year since they established it in 2000. Since then the foundation has awarded $36.7 billion, mostly backing global health, development, policy, and advocacy, and U.S. education programs.
Jim and Cathy Justice
He is governor of West Virginia and founded the James C. Justice Companies, which own resorts and coal-mining operations.They gave $25 million to Boy Scouts of America for a 10,600-acre park in West Virginia and $10 million to Cleveland Clinic to support the development of new health-care products.
A former U.S. Senator, he led his family’s company, Kohl’s Department Stores, from 1970 to 1979, the year it was sold. He gave the Greater Milwaukee Foundation $100 million in 2014 for the construction of a new sports arena in Milwaukee, and smaller donations in recent years to the University of Wisconsin at Madison and to Milwaukee Succeeds to support community development and education programs.
At least $28.1 million
She is the widow of Mick McMurry, who founded the Nerd Gas Company and who died in 2015.She gives mostly through the family’s McMurry Foundation, which supports a variety of causes. The McMurry family has given extensively to the University of Wyoming, Mr. McMurry’s alma mater, including large donations to athletics and other facilities, the business school, and the nursing school.
Correction: This article has been revised to note that Sandra Schulze died in 2001.