Wealthiest Americans Show Economic Confidence with Large Donations in 2013

In a report released December 31, 2013 from the Washington, D.C.-based Chronicle of Philanthropy, America’s wealthiest families made charitable gifts on a much larger scale in 2013 than they did in 2012. “It was a much stronger year for donations among the affluent,” said Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle. This improvement in philanthropic giving was triggered by the sharply climbing stock market as well as renewed confidence in the economy.

The largest donation in 2013 came from Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan. The Facebook Inc. Chief Executive and his wife, a physician, donated 18 million Facebook shares to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Far and away the largest charitable donation in 2013, their gift is valued at more than $992 million.

Silicon Valley Community Foundation

In contrast, an identical donation from the Zuckerberg’s of Facebook stock in 2012 was valued at about half as much at just under $500 million and only landed them in the second spot on the largest donations list. As the market rose in 2013, Facebook stock did very well. Mr. Zuckerberg’s personal net worth also doubled since December 2012 from $12.2 billion to approximately $25 billion today.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy further reported that the number of gifts of $1 million or more climbed by 57 percent in 2013 – $6.1 billion total in 2012 to $9.6 billion in 2013. Plus, donors interested in making the 2013 top ten list had to give a much bigger gift than in 2012. The threshold for the top ten dropped as low as $60 million in 2012. However, in order to make the list for 2013 a gift of $100 million was needed – and there are 6 names competing for that slot.

Number Two on the list of charitable gifts in 2013 are Nike CEO Phil Knight and his wife Penelope. The Knights pledged $500 million to support cancer research to the Oregon Health & Science University Foundation with the expectation that the university will match the gift amount within the next two years.

Michael Bloomberg, former New York City Mayor, is three on the list. The former mayor pledged $350 million to Johns Hopkins University for financial aid to undergraduate students and to assist with promotion of cross-disciplinary studies.

The remaining names on the biggest donors list give us even more evidence that the economy is improving, especially in relation to the housing market. One third of the names on the list are heirs to real estate fortunes or real estate developers themselves.

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