News and analysis
February 06, 2012

No. 44 (tied): Robert L. Tidwell

Amount donated in 2011: $30-million

Beneficiary: Children’s Hospital of Orange County Foundation

Donor’s background: Mr. Tidwell was an independent investment banker who made his fortune through personal investments.

Mr. Tidwell, who was 87 when he died in 2009, left $30-million, his entire estate, to the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (Calif.) Foundation. He placed no stipulations on the bequest, so hospital officials have decided to use half of the money for a new building and the other half for clinical programs, endowment, and recruitment.

In 2004, Mr. Tidwell contacted the hospital and said he wanted to donate a computer. A year later, the foundation officials invited him to tour the hospital. They said he appeared moved by what he saw and told foundation officials that he intended to leave his estate to the hospital. It wasn’t until last year, however, when the foundation received the money, that officials realized Mr. Tidwell had amassed such a large fortune. He had no children or other heirs and lived in a modest house in Garden Grove, Calif.

“It’s so easy as a fundraiser, because you’re busy, to focus on the donors who you know have wealth, and you might not take notice of a person like this who just wanted to donate a computer,” said Tanya Lieber, the foundation’s executive director. “You have to make sure that that experience is just as positive for those individuals and to try to really capitalize on everyone that comes to your organization, because you never know what it leads to.”

—Maria Di Mento

View more profiles of donors who gave the most in 2011