Each year, philanthropy alters untold lives, molding the experience of both givers and receivers. Today’s philanthropists find comfort in knowing their gifts create tomorrow’s donations, enabling people in need to wrestle themselves from poor conditions and one day gain the opportunity to give a similar hand to those still struggling.
When the slope of global wealth distribution closely mirrors a cliffside, the world calls for individuals willing to sacrifice a bit of their bounty, trading capital to guarantee others the commodities central to cultivating their own success. The Chronicle of Philanthropy acknowledges the value of a charitable mindset; each year the publication releases a list of 50 Americans whose altruism spurs them to part with truly colossal dollar amounts.
The 2016 Philanthropy 50’s highest spot belongs to Nike co-founder Phil Knight, as well as his wife, Penny Knight, both of whom topped the list for the first time ever. They donated a combined $900 million this past year, $500 million of which went to the University of Oregon, and $400 million to Stanford. Colleges were a popular avenue for donation in 2016, collecting around half of the 2016 list’s total donations.
Despite boasting immense numbers, 2016’s Philanthropy 50 did reflect recent trends of notably declining donations overall. Last year’s top donations totaled $5.6 billion, a substantial decrease from 2015’s $7 billion total, and only half of 2014’s $10.2 billion. Stock market uncertainty, as well as 2016’s attention sponge of a presidential election are prime culprits for 2016’s middling donation numbers, according to Robert Kissane, chairman of consulting firm CSS Fundraising. “I think the psychic energy was going to politics and not philanthropy. People were just totally immersed in it, and so they weren’t as active,” says Kissane.
Other list-toppers include New York Mayor and founder of finance software titan Bloomberg LP Michael Bloomberg ($600.1 million), Howard and Lottie Marcus ($400 million), whose donation to Ben-Gurion University may be the largest amount ever gifted to any Israeli college, as well as Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen ($295 million), whose funds will advance a scattershot list of causes, including arts and culture, brain and cell science, climate change and ocean health, global health, Pacific Northwest groups, and wildlife conservation.