Gifts Surge From the Wealthiest U. S. Donors reported the Chronicle of Philanthropy on 9 February. The Chronicle’s ranking of the 50 donors who give the most to charitable causes shows that the wealthy contributed $7.7 billion last year, 4 per cent more than in 2012.
Last year’s stock-market surge was behind the boom, but one expert also suspects the intergenerational transfer of wealth is starting to kick in. Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, aged just 29, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, led the ‘philanthropic pack’ in 2013 with a gift of nearly $1 billion to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
But not all commentators have seen unqualified cause for rejoicing in these figures – for two distinct reasons. First, it has been pointed out (Chronicle, 18 February) that a Closer Look at Data Belies ‘Surge’ in Giving by Rich. According to Businessweek, the increase in giving was dwarfed by the growth in billionaires’ assets. Adjusted for inflation, giving by the most generous philanthropists has risen only slightly since 2003, while the combined wealth of the Forbes 400 more than doubled to $2 trillion.
The other reason for scepticism relates to where the donations go. ‘Giving Pledge Signers Gave Big in 2013 but Not Much for Today’s Needs’, reports the Chronicle (9 February). While Melinda Gates says the pledge has inspired people to give more and earlier, concerns are growing about whether the effort is channelling enough new money to urgent causes today. At the heart of the criticism is a concern that too many of the billionaires are putting their money into foundations that may not dole out grants for many years.