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According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, the top 50 Americans who gave the most to charity in 2020 committed to giving a total of US$24.7 billion to hospitals, homeless shelters, universities, museums, and more – a boost of roughly 54% from 2019 levels. 

What trends stand out?  Pandemic. Pandemic. Pandemic. 

The share of giving that went to social service nonprofits, food banks, and homelessness assistance groups rose sharply.  At the same time, performing arts organizations, largely shut down as a result of the pandemic, received more support from big donors in 2020 than in 2019, with charitable gifts and pledges increasing to $65 million from $51 million.


In addition, Racial justice. Racial justice. Racial justice.

For instance, basketball legend Michael Jordan declared that he would personally give at least $50 million to racial equity and education causes over the next decade, with his footwear and clothing company kicking in another $50 million. Also, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings gave a total of $120 million divided into three equal gifts to Morehouse College, Spelman College, and the United Negro College Fund.  Neither Jordan nor Hastings, who said their increased awareness about the country’s racial injustices and the deaths of Black people in police custody inspired them to give, made the Chronicle’s list of top donors in 2019.  These and other unusually large gifts taking aim at racial injustice, and other forms of social injustice, totaled $66 million in 2020. 


What the top 50 US donors supported in 2020

  1. Environmental Foundations                               $10,050M
  2. Foundations                                                                     $2,732M
  3. Colleges and Universities                                                $2,186M
  4. Donor-advised Funds                                                      $1,330M
  5. Social Services (excluding hunger and homelessness)     $480M
  6. Hospitals and Medical Centers                                           $257M
  7. Food Banks and Hunger                                                     $157M
  8. Microfinance and Debt Relief                                              $122M
  9. Education Causes                                                               $116M
  10. 10. Homelessness and Housing                                               $92M


Contrast this to “2021 Emergency Watchlist” – The top 10 crises the world should be watching in 2021, according to the International Rescue Committee.  The issues range from unrelenting conflict and famine in Yemen to violence against women and children in Afghanistan and the Congo.

All charitable giving is good.  The striking contrast between the two lists simply highlights the many opportunities each and every one of us have to ease human suffering around the world.