News and analysis
February 10, 2013

Why Perennial Donors Bloomberg and Gates Are Missing From the Latest Philanthropy 50

Edward Reed, New York City Hall/AP IMAGES

Michael Bloomberg’s philanthropies gave $331.5-million to 1,200 charities working on a range of issues.

Michael Bloomberg, a leading benefactor to causes as diverse as anti-smoking, the arts, road safety, and his alma mater, the Johns Hopkins University, isn’t on this year’s list of the biggest charitable donors. Nor are other philanthropic powerhouses like Bill and Melinda Gates.

That’s not because these donors aren’t giving. The Chronicle’s rankings are based on new commitments donors made to their foundations and to other nonprofits in 2012 and do not count payments on past pledges or foundation grants.

The Gateses gave their foundation $469-million last year, but the money went to pay off a pledge of approximately $3.3-billion the couple made in 2004.

Personal Giving

Mayor Bloomberg’s giving drew new attention last month when he announced a $350-million donation to Hopkins, including $100-million for scholarships to aid needy students and the rest to endow professorships. The institution said that brought his lifetime donation ­total to $1.1-billion.

Giving from the mayor’s Bloomberg Philanthropies, which includes grants from his foundation, his personal giving to other charities, and support from Bloomberg LP, totaled $331.5-million in 2012, according to a spokesman. The money went to 1,200 charities working in public health, the arts, education, the environment, and government innovation.

But Mr. Bloomberg declined to say how much money he put into his foundation or gave directly to other nonprofits, the measure on which the list is based. The $331.5-million figure would be enough to lift Mr. Bloomberg above all but three of the people ranked by The Chronicle as 2012’s most-generous donors.

But most likely, his giving to his foundation last year was even higher.

The New York mayor gave the Bloomberg Family Foundation more than $454-million in 2011, according to its tax returns for that year, the last available. That was much more than the $311.3-million the mayor, his foundation, and company gave to nonprofits that year.

Similarly, in 2010, Mr. Bloomberg gave the foundation nearly $362-million. By contrast, his personal giving, foundation grant making, and corporate giving totaled about $279-million.

Other boldfaced names in philanthropy also gave big money to nonprofits in 2012 but don’t appear on The Chronicle’s list.

Ted Turner paid $50-million last year to the United Nations Foundation and the Better World Fund. He made the donation through his Turner Global Foundation. The grant was payment toward a $1-billion pledge the philanthropist made in 1997 to establish the United Nations Foundation and the Better World Fund.

To date, the media mogul has paid $952-million toward the pledge and has less than $50-million to go to complete the commitment.

With the Gateses’ big payment to their foundation in 2012, the couple has only about $70-million left to pay on their 2004 pledge.

Warren Buffett, the investor who is No. 1 on the Philanthropy 50 list for new pledges he made to foundations operated by his three children, is also paying off a previous multibillion-dollar pledge.

In 2006, he pledged shares of Berkshire Hathaway stock valued at more than $30-billion to the Gates foundation and has been making annual payments toward that commitment ever since.

In 2012, he gave shares valued at slightly more than $1.5-billion toward the pledge, and to date, Mr. Buffett has given the foundation more than $11-billion.

Send an e-mail to Maria Di Mento or Caroline Preston.