The 21st annual Philanthropy 50, the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s list of America’s biggest donors, is based on gifts and pledges of cash, stock, land and real estate to nonprofit organizations in 2020.

The Chronicle talked to dozens of nonprofits, philanthropists and their representatives to find out more about large donations that were made public last year, as well as the philanthropy of big donors who gave quietly. However, not all philanthropists publicly disclose details about their giving, and they are not legally required to do so.

Gifts made to donors’ family foundations and donor-advised funds were counted; however, disbursements from those grant-making vehicles were not included in our rankings to avoid double-counting.

The Chronicle counts only gifts that donors make to organizations with charity or foundation status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Some of America’s biggest donors don’t appear on the current Philanthropy 50 even if they have made a big gift to a nonprofit last year. That’s because the Chronicle’s rankings count multiyear pledges only once, as a lump sum in the year the commitment was made.

For example, Warren Buffett is absent from this year’s list even though he gave the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation stock in his Berkshire Hathaway investment firm valued at more than $2.2 billion last year.


The donation was an annual installment on his 2006 pledge of more than $36 billion in Berkshire shares to the foundation. That same year he also made multibillion pledges to the foundations of his late first wife and his three children.

Here’s how much Buffett gave to charity last year:

— Nearly 12.2 million shares of class “B” Berkshire stock valued at more than $2.2 billion to the Gates Foundation, the latest installment of his 2006 pledge.

— More than 1.2 million shares valued at almost $220.9 million to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation — named for his first wife, who died in 2004. To date, he has contributed nearly $2.8 billion of the approximately $3.6 billion he has pledged to the fund.

— More than 850,000 shares (valued at about $154.6 million) apiece to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, which funds agriculture, clean-water, and anti-poverty programs; the NoVo Foundation, co-founded by Peter Buffett and his wife, Jennifer, which focuses on the well-being of girls and women globally and supports economic and education programs; and daughter Susan Buffett’s Sherwood Foundation, which backs social justice work and early-childhood education.

Warren Buffett originally promised about 17,500,000 shares each of Berkshire Hathaway stock to the foundations of his three children and doubled the original pledge in 2012. To date, he has given the three foundations almost $1.7 billion each.


This article was provided to The Associated Press by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Maria Di Mento is a senior reporter at the Chronicle. Email: The AP and the Chronicle receive support from the Lilly Endowment for coverage of philanthropy and nonprofits. The AP and the Chronicle are solely responsible for all content.