The 25 most generous philanthropists in America today

Bill and Melinda Gates are the top American philanthropists.

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Bill and Melinda Gates are the top American philanthropists.
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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

  • The Chronicle of Philanthropy publishes an annual list of the top 50 philanthropists (both individuals and couples) by calculating their yearly donations.
  • In 2017, America’s wealthiest residents donated $14.7 billion to nonprofit organizations.
  • About 60% of the total was donated by people who made their fortunes in tech, suggesting America’s philanthropic center is shifting away from Wall Street and towards Silicon Valley, according to The Chronicle.

America’s wealthiest people donated $14.7 billion in 2017 to causes, alma maters, foundations, and charities – more than doubling the amount given away in 2016.

For 18 years, The Chronicle of Philanthropy has published an annual round up of the top-50 philanthropists in America by calculating their yearly donations. In 2017, the individuals and couples on the list donated a median of $97 million, doubling the giving amount from the first list published in 2000. The total donation amount of the 2017 list is the highest amount since the 2008 recession, according to Forbes.

The 2017 list features 11 individuals or couples from the technology industry accounting for $8.7 billion in donations, or about 60% of the total, suggesting America’s philanthropic center is shifting away from Wall Street and towards Silicon Valley, according to The Chronicle.

The top three donors who gave away at least $1 billion each are tech moguls: Michael and Susan Dell, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, and Bill and Melinda Gates.

Notably missing from the list is billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who made a multibillion-dollar donation in Berkshire Hathaway stock to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2017. But because the “annual installment” was part of Buffett’s initial 2006 pledge to donate more than $36 billion in Berkshire Hathaway shares to the Gates’ organization, the Chronicle did not count it as a 2017 donation.

Below are the top 25 philanthropists who donated more than $97 million each in 2017. Note that four people passed away after the ranking was first published in February – Porter Byrum, David Rockefeller, Florence Irving, and Henry Hillman.


25. Sheryl Sandberg

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Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
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Greg Sandoval/Business Insider

Source of wealth: Technology

Total amount donated: $97,999,000

Biggest causes: Sheryl Sandberg & David Goldberg Family Fund, LeanIn.org and OptionB.org

Source: Forbes


23. (TIE) Kenneth and Pamela Ricci

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Pamela and Kenneth Ricci, founder of Directional Aviation Capital.
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YouTube/ND Loyal

Source of wealth: Transportation

Total amount donated: $100,000,000

Biggest causes: University of Notre Dame

Source: Notre Dame News


23. (TIE) Agnes Gund

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Agnes Gund, president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art and chairman of its International Council.
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Stuart C. Wilson/Getty

Source of wealth: Family wealth (banking)

Total amount donated: $100,000,000

Biggest causes: Art for Justice Fund, criminal justice reform, literacy organizations including Actors’ Gang, the National Book Foundation, PEN America and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Source: Inside Philanthropy


22. Joseph (Rusty) Walter III and Paula Walter

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Walter Oil & Gas tycoon Joseph (Rusty) Walter III and Paula Walter
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Facebook/Houston Methodist

Source of wealth: Oil

Total amount donated: $101,000,000

Biggest causes: Houston Methodist Hospital for lifesaving treatments research and the hospital’s transplant center

Source: Inside Philanthropy


21. Roberta Elliott

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Roberta Elliott next to her brother Warren Buffett
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Jim Young/Reuters

Source of wealth: Family wealth

Total amount donated: $105,800,000

Biggest causes: Montage Health Foundation and Northwestern University

Sources: The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Philanthropy News Digest


20. William and Linda Frost

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Cal Poly graduate and Chemlogics founder William and Linda Frost.
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Courtesy of Cal Poly University

Source of wealth: Chemicals

Total amount donated: $110,000,000

Biggest causes: California Polytechnic State University

Source:Los Angeles Times


19. Jay Shidler

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University of Hawaii alumni and Real Estate mogul Jay Shidler
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YouTube/Unversity of Hawaii News

Source of wealth: Real estate

Total amount donated: $117,000,000

Biggest causes: University of Hawaii at Manoa Shidler College of Business and Mākālei and Lē’ahi beach parks off Diamond Head in Hawaii

Source: Honolulu Magazine


18. T. Denny Sanford

Source of wealth: Finance

Total amount donated: $140,000,000

Biggest causes: Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Zoological Society of San Diego, National University in La Jolla, California, and Sanford Health Foundation

Source: The Chronicle of Philanthropy


17. Porter Byrum

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Porter Byrum was an attorney, businessman, and philanthropist from Charlotte, North Carolina.
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YouTube/Wake Forest University

Source of wealth: Law and real estate

Total amount donated: $140,024,500

Biggest causes: Wake Forest University, Queens University in Charlotte, and Wingate University

Source:The Chronicle of Philanthropy


16. David Geffen

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David Geffen of Asylum Records, Geffen Records, Geffen Film Company, and Dreamworks SKG.
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Stephen Lovekin/Getty

Source of wealth: Entertainment

Total amount donated: $150,000,000

Biggest causes: David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Museum of Modern Art, Licoln Center, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, and funds areas of health, education, arts and culture, LGBT and the fight against AIDS

Source:Inside Philanthropy


15. Jack and Laura Dangermond

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Esri co-founders Jack and Laura Dangermond.
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Michael Loccisano/Getty

Source of wealth: Technology

Total amount donated: $165,000,000

Biggest causes: Nature Conservancy, Esri, donated GIS software to k-12 schools in the US

Source: Forbes


14. Larry and Beth Gies

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Larry Gies
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YouTube/U17 News

Source of wealth: Finance

Total amount donated: $177,250,000

Biggest causes: University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign, Lucile Packard Foundation, Northwestern University, Gies Foundation, Huntington Disease Society, Sarcoidosis Foundation, and Misericordia Women’s League

Source: Inside Philanthropy


13. Henry and Susan Samueli

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Broadcom Corp. co-founder and owner of the NHL Anaheim Ducks Henry and Susan Samueli.
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Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty

Source of wealth: Telecommunications

Total amount donated: $200,000,000

Biggest causes: University of California at Irvine College of Health Services, Samueli Foundation and Broadcom Foundation funding areas include: health, education, youth services, social services, Jewish community, and Southern California community

Sources: UCI News, Inside Philanthropy


12. David Rockefeller

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David Rockefeller was chairman and chief executive of Chase Manhattan Corporation.
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Brendan Smialowski/Getty

Source of wealth: Family wealth

Total amount donated: $202,000,000

Biggest causes: Council of Foreign Relations, Museum of Modern Art, Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve, Americas Society

Source: The Chronicle of Philanthropy


11. George Soros

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George Soros of Soros Fund Management.
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Sean Gallup/Getty

Source of wealth: Finance

Total amount donated: $208,200,000

Biggest causes: Open Society Foundation – democratic ideals, humanitarian efforts, economic development, education, and policy reform

Source: Inside Philanthropy


10. Roy and Diana Vagelos

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Retired chairman of Merck & Company pharmaceuticals corporation and beneficiary of Columbia University Medical Center Roy and Diana Vagelos.
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YouTube/Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons, Columbia

Source of wealth: Pharmaceuticals

Total amount donated: $250,000,000

Biggest causes: Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons

Source: Columbia University Irving Medical Center Newsroom


9. Pierre and Pam Omidyar

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eBay chairman Pierre and Pam Omidyar
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Dario Cantatore/Getty

Source of wealth: Technology

Total amount donated: $257,500,000

Biggest causes: Omidyar Network, Humanity United, Democracy Fund, First Look Media, and Hopelab

Source: The Chronicle of Philanthropy


8. John and Laura Arnold

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John and Laura Arnold
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YouTube/Nexus Global Youth Summit

Source of wealth: Energy and finance

Total amount donated: $285,000,000

Biggest causes: Laura and John Arnold Foundation – education, scientific integrity, criminal justice, and public pensions

Source:Inside Philanthropy


7. Charles Butt

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CEO of HEB grocery stores Charles Butt.
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Facebook/H-E-B

Source of wealth: Retail

Total amount donated: $290,000,000

Biggest causes: Holdsworth Center, The Charles Butt Foundation primarily funds grants towards education, cultural, and health institution with past grants for St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, The Menil Collection, and Meadows mental Helath Policy Institute

Source:Inside Philanthropy


6. Florence Irving

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Herbert and Florence Irving.
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Columbia University

Source of wealth: Food and beverage

Total amount donated: $680,000,000

Biggest causes: Columbia University Herbert and Florence Irving Medical Center, New York-Presbyterian Columbia University Irving Medical Center, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Source: The Chronicle of Philanthropy


5. Michael Bloomberg

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Michael Bloomberg, founder and CEO of Bloomberg, the financial data and media company.
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Tim P. Whitby/Getty

Source of wealth: Media

Total amount donated: $702,000,000

Biggest causes: Arts, education, environment, public-health groups, and programs aimed at improving city governments around the world

Source: The Chronicle of Philanthropy


4. Henry Hillman

Source of wealth: Investments

Total amount donated: $850,000,000

Biggest causes: Hillman Family Foundation

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


3. Michael and Susan Dell

Source of wealth: Technology

Total amount donated: $1,000,000,000

Biggest causes: Michael and Susan Dell Foundation – children and family poverty in Central Texas, India, and South Africa; social enterprises and nonprofits for urban education and family economic stability

Source:Forbes


2. Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan

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Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan.
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Adam Berry/Getty

Source of wealth: Technology

Total amount donated: $2,018,944,200

Biggest causes: Chan Zuckerberg Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Donor Advised Fund at Silicon Valley Community Foundation

Sources: The Chronicle of Philanthropy and Forbes


1. Bill and Melinda Gates

Bill and Melinda Gates are the top American philanthropists.

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Source of wealth: Technology

Total amount donated: $4,780,000,000

Biggest causes: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – enhance healthcare, reduce extreme poverty, expand educational opportunities

Source:Forbes