Which American gave away the most money in 2013? The answer to this is not entirely surprising given his net worth but the winner goes to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, 29, and wife Priscilla Chan who donated close to $1 billion to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. That huge gift in itself made up a large chunk of the $7.7 billion the top 50 Americans gave away to philanthropic causes in 2013, per the 14th annual Philanthropy 50, a list of Americans who pledged the most money last year to charitable causes, compiled by The Chronicle of Philanthropy per Forbes.
The 2013 overall total surpassed last year’s donations by $300 million from 2012’s $7.4 billion contribution but was down from $10.4 billion in 2011. That year’s overall sum was skewed upward thanks to a single $6 billion bequest from the late agribusiness heiress Margaret A. Cargill.
2013’s second-biggest donation was also a bequest, $750 million from the late George Mitchell, a Texas energy tycoon and former Forbes 400 member who pioneered fracking, the hydraulic fracturing method used for finding natural gas. Before he died in July, Forbes estimated his net worth at a whopping $2 billion. He left $750 million to his family foundation, a foundation that backs conservation and sustainability. One of the foundation’s main goals is to make sure that fracking does not cause lasting environmental damage.
The third-largest donation of 2013 came from billionaire Philip Knight, cofounder of Nike, and his wife Penelope, who gave $500 million for cancer research at the Oregon Health & Science University Foundation in Portland. The Knights also gave $100 million back in 2008 to the University to back the Knight Cancer Institute. The large gift, aimed at kick-starting a cancer research initiative which came with a big challenge attached to it: the foundation must match the donation within two years, or lose it. The Knights have made the Philanthropy 50 four times in the past, clearly not strangers to doing good.