News and analysis
February 10, 2013

How The Chronicle Compiled the Philanthropy 50 Top-Donor Ranking

The 13th annual Philanthropy 50, The Chronicle’s list of America’s most generous donors, is based on gifts and pledges of cash and stock to nonprofit organizations.

Although The Chronicle attempted to find all information about large contributions made by individuals in 2012, not all philanthropists disclose details about their charitable donations publicly, and they are not required by law to do so.

Gifts that donors made from their family foundations were not counted to avoid including them twice—when the donor gave the money to the foundation and when he or she selected a beneficiary for the money.

The Chronicle counted only those gifts that donors made to organizations with charity or foundation status under the Internal Revenue Service code.

The list does not include payments that donors made on pledges announced in previous years, to avoid counting the same gifts twice.

In addition to cash and stock donations, the 2012 list includes two art donations. The Chronicle includes such gifts only when a reliable value for the works can be determined.

The donation of artworks from Vance Kondon, a San Diego doctor, and Elisabeth Giesberger are worth at least $45-million, according to experts at two museums that received the works. Donations of three Impressionist paintings from Ethel Strong Allen to the Hackley School sold for $49.3-million. 

The Philanthropy 50 report of 2012 was compiled by Maria Di Mento, with assistance from Caroline Preston and Sarah Frostenson.