News and analysis
February 06, 2011

How the Chronicle’s Survey of America’s Most-Generous Donors Was Compiled

The 11th annual Philanthropy 50, The Chronicle’s list of America’s most-generous donors, is based on gifts and pledges to nonprofit organizations of cash, stock, land, art, and real estate. In gathering its data, The Chronicle used information it has published in the last year about donations of $1-million or more from individuals; it also conducted additional research on wealthy people and their donations to charitable organizations last year.

While many of the donors on the list are prominent philanthropists, few of them are the wealthiest people in America. Of the 400 wealthiest Americans listed by Forbes magazine, only 17 appeared on the Philanthropy 50.

Although The Chronicle attempted to compile all information about large contributions made by individuals in 2009, not all donors disclose information about their gifts 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 the donor 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. Donors are not allowed to claim charitable deductions on their income taxes for gifts to other types of tax-exempt groups, even if they were made to help others.

The newspaper publishes its list of most-generous donors in conjunction with the online magazine, Slate, which began publishing such rankings in 1996.

Anonymous Donors

The Philanthropy 50 list does not include gifts from anonymous donors. The Chronicle published news of 36 anonymous gifts of $1-million or more last year, and those donations were worth a total of $567.1-million. That is a significant drop from 2007, a record year in which 87 gifts from anonymous donors totaled $1.1-billion.

The list also does not include payments that donors made on pledges announced in previous years, to avoid counting the same gift twice. As a result, the most recent Philanthropy 50 list does not include some of last year’s largest donations, because they were given as payments on pledges announced in previous years.

Estate Bequests

Two donors who have previously appeared on the Philanthropy 50 list died in 2010. They are not included on this list because it is unclear how much money from their estates will benefit charitable causes.

• Dan L. Duncan, the founder of Enterprise Products Partners, an energy company in Houston, who died in March at 77. When the estate is settled, the Dan L. Duncan Family Foundation, in Houston, is set to receive close to half of Mr. Duncan’s estate after property, investments and other holdings go to his family members. In addition, the estate will first pay off the $100-million he pledged in 2006 to Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston, according to his will. Mr. Duncan appeared on the top-donors list three times while he was alive. In 2009 Mr. Duncan’s wealth was pegged at $8-billion by Forbes magazine.

• John W. Kluge, the founder of Metromedia, a New York entertainment company, who in 2007 pledged $400-million to Columbia University, in New York, for financial aid and who died last September at 95. Forbes magazine listed his wealth at $6.5-billion in 2009. Officials in charge of Mr. Kluge’s estate would not provide any information about possible bequests and said his estate has not yet been settled. Mr. Kluge appeared on the list three times during his lifetime.

 Gifts of Art

Three significant art collections were pledged to museums last year, but their donors were not included on the Philanthropy 50 list because the museums or donors would not disclose a reliable estimate of the artworks’ dollar value and another reliable independent source could not be found. Emily Fisher Landau, the widow of Martin Fisher, a co-founder of the New York real-estate firm Fisher Brothers, pledged 367 modern and contemporary artworks to the Whitney Museum of American Art, in New York, where she is a trustee.

The National Gallery of Art, in Washington, also received a pledge. Linda H. Kaufman, the widow of George M. Kaufman, the Virginia real-estate developer who died in 2001, has promised a collection of more than 200 pieces of early American furniture and more than 30 Dutch paintings, which the museum will receive several years after Ms. Kaufman’s death.

The Saint Louis Art Museum received a collection of approximately 1,400 Japanese prints and other artworks from Charles Lowenhaupt, the founder of Lowenhaupt Global Advisors, in St. Louis, and his wife, Rosalyn.

The Philanthropy 50 survey of 2010 was compiled by Maria Di Mento, with assistance from Caroline Bermudez, Nicole Lewis, and Caroline Preston.