News and analysis
February 06, 2012

How The Chronicle’s Philanthropy 50 Survey Was Compiled

The 12th annual Philanthropy 50, The Chronicle’s list of America’s most generous donors, is based on gifts and pledges to nonprofit organizations of cash and stock and, in one case, an art collection. To compile the list, The Chronicle sought information from wealthy people and many of America’s biggest nonprofits.

Although The Chronicle attempted to find all information about large contributions made by individuals in 2011, not all donors disclose details about their charitable donations publicly; 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 Philanthropy 50 list does not include gifts from anonymous donors. The Chronicle published news of 76 anonymous gifts of $1-million or more in 2011, which totaled $546-million.

Pledge Payments

The list also does not include payments that donors made on pledges announced in previous years, to avoid counting the same gifts 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 or because it is unclear if the money was a new gift or a payment on a past pledge. (For more about some of those gifts, see article above.)

Two wealthy Americans who received attention for gifts last year are also not on the list:

  • Amar G. Bose, founder of the Bose audio-technology equipment company, gave the majority of his company’s stock to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Mr. Bose gave the stock in the form of non-voting shares and stipulated that the university cannot sell the shares. Officials at MIT said they could not place a dollar value on the gift, primarily because the business is not a publicly traded company and part of the agreement with the donor states that financial figures will be kept confidential. A spokeswoman for the company said annual sales for 2011 were $2.5-billion.
  • Huguette Clark, an heiress who died last year at age 104, was not included on the list despite reports after her death of a $100-million bequest.

Her estate, worth $400-million, is now ensnared in a legal battle because she signed two wills within six weeks of each other. A court is now settling the controversy.

The Philanthropy 50 report of 2011 was compiled by Maria Di Mento, with assistance from Caroline Bermudez and Caroline Preston.