News and analysis
February 07, 2017

The Chronicle Digs Deep to Compile Annual List of Top 50 Donors

The 17th annual Philanthropy 50, The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s list of America’s most generous donors, is based primarily on gifts and pledges of cash, land, and stock to nonprofit organizations.

The Chronicle dug deep, talking to dozens of nonprofits, philanthropists, and their representatives to find out more about large donations that were made public in 2016, as well as the philanthropy of big donors who gave quietly last year.

Although we sought out all information about large charitable donations made by individuals in 2016, not all philanthropists publicly disclose details about their giving and they are not legally required to do so.

Gifts donors made to their family foundations were counted; however, disbursements from those foundations were not included in our rankings to avoid double-counting.

The Chronicle counts only gifts that donors make to organizations with charity or foundation status under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Some of America’s biggest donors don’t appear on the current Philanthropy 50 even though they may have written big checks to charity last year. That’s because The Chronicle’s rankings count multiyear pledges only once, as a single lump sum in the year the commitment was made.

For example, Warren Buffett is missing from this year’s list even though he gave the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation stock in his Berkshire Hathaway investment firm valued at nearly $2.2 billion. The donation was an annual installment on Mr. Buffett’s 2006 pledge of more than $30 billion in Berkshire shares to the foundation. (See our Philanthropy 50 overview for more on Warren Buffett’s giving last year.)

Send an email to Maria Di Mento.