In a year marked by economic turbulence and fluctuations in billionaire fortunes, philanthropy in the United States has not only endured but soared to greater heights. Despite a 15% decrease in the combined net worth of the nation's top philanthropists, a select group of generous individuals have continued to make a significant impact through their charitable contributions. In this blog, we delve into the inspiring stories of some of America's most prominent givers, shedding light on their noteworthy endeavors in 2023.
Warren Buffett and His Lifetime of Giving
Warren Buffett, the famous investor, is still a major player in the world of giving. Back in 2006, he made a promise to give away most of his money, and he's been sticking to it. In 2022, he generously donated a whopping $5.4 billion, bringing his lifetime total to an astonishing $51.5 billion. Most of the money he donates goes towards helping people
stay healthy and fighting poverty, with a big chunk of it going to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Bill and Melinda Gates are a United Front for Change
Even after their divorce in 2021, Bill and Melinda Gates continue to co-chair the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. An organization known for its wide-ranging philanthropic efforts. The foundation focuses on issues such as global health, poverty alleviation, education, and access to technology. In 2022, they made headlines by committing to increase their annual grant-making to a remarkable $9 billion by 2026. Bill's staggering personal donation of $20 billion to the foundation shows that they are following through on their promise.
Additionally, Melinda vowed to contribute $1 billion to her new non-profit Pivotal Ventures. Pivotal Ventures is dedicated to driving societal progress through philanthropy, investments, partnerships, and advocacy. They collaborate with diverse leaders and organizations, such as the Center for American Women in Politics and the Headstream Accelerator, to achieve shared goals in areas like women's political participation and adolescent mental health innovation.
George Soros is Championing Democracy and Human Rights
George Soros, a hedge fund titan, has been a steadfast supporter of democracy, education, and human rights. In March 2022, he gave to his Open Society Foundation, which provides grants to a wide range of organizations and individuals across many countries, $25 million to establish the Ukraine Democracy Fund, demonstrating his commitment to civil society during challenging times. Soros' lifetime giving now stands at an impressive $18.4 billion.
MacKenzie Scott Keeps Giving
MacKenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has been making headlines with her rapid and substantial charitable contributions. In 2022, she announced donations totaling $5.8 billion to around 800 nonprofit organizations, continuing her trend of swift and impactful giving. Her lifetime contributions of $14.43 billion place her among the most prolific philanthropists in recent years.
Jeff Bezos Has Decade-Long Commitments
The Amazon founder and executive chairman gave away $690 million in 2022, including nearly $280 million in grants dispensed by the Bezos Earth Fund, a $10 billion, decade-long commitment that Bezos announced in February 2020 with the goal of driving climate solutions; in November, the Earth Fund committed $50 million to African forest restoration. He gave $115 million to Bezos Academies, tuition-free preschools for low-income families. The Bezos Day 1 Families Fund awarded $123 million in 2022 to 40 groups in 26 states and Puerto Rico that are helping homeless families get shelter and services.
Sergey Brin is a Newcomer Making Waves
Google co-founder Sergey Brin, a newcomer to the top philanthropists' list, has shown a strong commitment to addressing pressing issues. He quietly donated $1.1 billion toward Parkinson's disease research, becoming the largest individual donor in the fight against the disease. Brin also supports climate change initiatives, poverty alleviation, and economic mobility.
Steve & Connie Ballmer Doubled Their Giving
The Ballmers doubled their giving in 2022 to $850 million, up from $420 million in 2021. In March 2022, the former Microsoft CEO and his wife pledged $425 million in a multi-year gift to the University of Oregon to create The Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health, which is uniting the university’s programs in psychology and education with Portland, Oregon public schools; her goal is to achieve early detection and prevention of mental health disorders in children and adolescents. The Ballmers announced in October that their son Sam Ballmer is leading their climate change giving, which includes a $50 million grant over five years to the Climate Works Foundation’s Drive Electric campaign, working to reach 100% zero-emission road transportation by 2050.
Lynn & Stacy Schusterman are Winning Medals in Philanthropy
The wife and daughter of late oil billionaire Charles Schusterman (d. 2000) ran the family’s foundation and were awarded the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in October. One key area of support: initiatives that advance racial, gender, and economic equity. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 2022 Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe vs. Wade, the foundation donated to several groups that assist women in accessing reproductive healthcare, including $10 million to Resources for Abortion Delivery to help women needing to travel for such care.
Michael & Susan Dell are Donating Millions
The computing tycoon and his wife’s Michael and Susan Dell Foundation last year announced $15 million in grants to groups in Ukraine helping families with medical needs and resettling refugees following Russia’s invasion of the country. The foundation also grants college scholarships to low-income students in the U.S. and South Africa. In India, the Dell Foundation funds credit and savings organizations for low-income families living in urban areas.
Trends in Philanthropy
These philanthropists are part of a growing trend toward transparency in charitable giving. Many, such as Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, Steve and Connie Ballmer, and the Gates Foundation, publish details of their grants online. This openness allows for a better understanding of their areas of focus and the impact of their donations.
In a year of financial uncertainty, these philanthropists have continued to make a profound difference in various sectors, from healthcare and education to climate change and human rights. Their generosity serves as a source of inspiration to us all and is a direct reflection of the enduring spirit of philanthropy in the United States despite the current financial landscape. As they lead by example, their contributions pave the way for positive change.