By Haddon Libby

Einstein told us to give back at least what we have taken while Anne Frank thought it was the way that anyone can improve the world immediately.  Both were talking about philanthropy – the act of helping others.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently released its annual list of the top 50 philanthropists in the United States for 2013.   It should not come as much of a surprise that the average age of the top 50 donors was 72.5 years.  The youngest person to make the list at 29 years of age was Mark Zuckerberg who gave 18 million shares of Facebook stock or $992 million to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.  Worth noting, he gave the same amount of stock to the same charity last year.

Conspicuously absent from this year’s list were Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.  While each gave substantial amounts, their giving was done as part of prior pledges and therefore excluded from the list.  For reference, Gates pledged $3.5 billion in 2004 and Buffet $30 billion in 2006 to the Gates Foundation.  To date, both have given even more than these pledged commitments.


To make this year’s list, one needed to donate at least $37.5 million.  As a group, the top 50 gave away $7.7 billion during 2013.

The late George Mitchell, best known for having pioneered the fracking process for mining for oil and gas, donated $750 million to his family foundation which dedicates a large portion of its net worth toward insuring that fracking does not cause long-term damage to the environment.

Third on the list was Nike’s co-founder Philip Knight who gave $500 million to the Oregon Health & Science University Foundation to jumpstart their funding efforts for building a cancer research institute.  His gift came with a string – raise matching funds within two years or his donation must be returned.

The top fifteen donors in 2013 were as follows:

Rank  Name  $ in millions  Source of Wealth
1. Mark Zuckerberg 992,200,000 Founder Facebook
2. George Mitchell (d.) 750,000,000 Founder Mitchell Energy
3. Philip Knight 500,000,000 Founder Nike
4. Michael Bloomberg 452,000,000 Founder Bloomberg News Services
5. John Arnold 296,200,000 Founder Centaurus Energy Hedge Fund
6. Charles Johnson 250,000,000 Franklin Templeton Investments
7. Pierre Omidyar 225,000,000 Founder eBay
8. Irwin Jacobs 221,100,000 Co-founder Qualcomm
9. Sergey Brin 219,000,000 Co-founder Google
10. Jeffrey Carlton (d.) 212,000,000 Founder Press Forge
11. Paul Allen 206,000,000 Co-founder Microsoft
12. Stephen Ross 200,000,000 Owner Miami Dolphins
13. Ronald Perelman 196,000,000 Corporate raider
14. Muriel Block (d.) 160,000,000 NY commercial real estate
15. Eli Broad 157,000,000 Founder KB Homes

Other notables on the list include Frank McCourt, infamous owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle and owner of the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens.

The largest single donation of all time was made by Bill Gates when he pledged more than $10 billion for vaccine development and distribution.  It is estimated that this single donation has saved the lives of more than 8 million children under the age of five worldwide.

The largest donation made by one person was Warren Buffet’s $30 billion pledge to the Gates Foundation.  He has stated that it is his intent to give away most of his $58.5 billion fortune.

While you and I might not be able to give as some of America’s wealthiest can, you still can make a profound difference with your time and talents if not your personal treasure.  You need look no further than our local community here in the Coachella Valley as we are a microcosm of many of the needs nationally.  Find your passion and get involved – you will be glad that you did.