July 01, 2010

Wealthy Are Making Bigger Gifts to Charitable Causes, Chronicle Tally Shows

Gabriela Hasbun

Marc and Lynne Benioff donated $100-million gift to build a new children's hospital.

America’s wealthiest donors are making far bigger gifts to charitable organizations in 2010 than they did a year ago—but far fewer of them are giving $1-million or more to charitable causes, a Chronicle of Philanthropy analysis has found.

The continued effects of the turbulent economy can be seen in the decrease in the number of gifts of $1-million or more announced in the first six months of this year. At least 181 gifts of that size have been awarded this year, compared with 250 such donations in the first six months of 2009.

But the donations that have been made show that many wealthy Americans are more willing to part with large sums than they were a year ago. At least 20 people have made gifts of $20-million to $35-million in the past six months; in the first part of 2009, only 13 such gifts had been made.

The number of gifts of $100-million or more has also grown slightly. So far three such gifts have been made, compared with two in the first six months of 2009.

The largest donations made so far this year have been an anonymous pledge for $200-million to Baylor University, announced in March; a $100-million pledge by the financier T. Boone Pickens to Oklahoma State University, announced in February; and a $100-million commitment announced this month by Marc and Lynne Benioff to the University of California at San Francisco Children’s Hospital.

As a result of the growing number of large donations, the total contributed by 181 donors of $1-million or more was $1.96-billion in the first six months of this year: the total of the 250 gifts donated in the first two quarters of 2009 was $1.74-billion.

The Chronicle’s analysis was based on the searchable list of gifts of $1-million or more it maintains online.