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Top UHNW Philanthropists Contributed Less During 2018 - Report

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor , January 7, 2019


Data shows that the top-10 philanthropists gave less in 2018 than a year before, although 2017 was notable with a massive gift from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The most ultra-wealthy philanthropists in the US gave less in gifts during 2018 than a year earlier, even though donors frequently grabbed headlines over the past 12 months with big-ticket contributions to education bodies, for example. 

Data from the Chronicle of Philanthropy (a paid-for publication whose findings are reported by Fast Company), said that in 2018, the top 10 largest charitable gifts from ultra-rich donors added up to $5.8 billion, down from $10.2 billion a year before.

The report said that one notable fact was the drop in value of “single-hit” gifts from individuals.

A possible factor is the uncertain political climate in the US. When the Trump administration signed off its tax package in December 2017, the doubling of the estate tax exemption, changes to deductions to state and local taxes, and some other measures, prompted some to think that this could affect charitable giving. 

The past few months have seen large contributions from the likes of former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who paid over $1.8 billion to his former university, John Hopkins, to finance medical research. Family Wealth Report has noted a number of large contributions to academic institutions, prompting thoughts about how donors can retain control of how their money is put to work. (See a recent guest article by Strategic Philanthropy chief operating officer Susan Winer, here.)

The Chronicle of Philanthropy report stated that total philanthropy giving last year reverted to levels similar to those in 2016, when the US’s top 10 donations totaled $4.3 billion in individual gifts. The report noted that one reason why 2017 was such a standout year was the $4.6 billion gift from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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