It's easy to make big promises to nonprofits, but who actually opens their wallets? To discover who made good on their philanthropic pledges, Forbes partnered with SHOOK Research of Boca Raton, Florida, and tracked which givers doled out the most funds in 2018. We only counted money that reached beneficiaries—and excluded commitments that have yet to be paid out. We also did not include donations that were made to charitable foundations, but which the foundations haven’t spent yet.
Most of the top philanthropists are also among the richest Americans in the country. Nine of the top ten givers made it to the ranks of the 2019 Forbes 400 list; altogether, 39 of the 50 top givers are Forbes 400 members. For the fifth year running, Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett tops the list at No.1, while Bill and Melinda Gates, Michael Bloomberg, the Walton family and George Soros round out the top five. In total, America's 50 most generous philanthropists gave out $14.1 billion in 2018, up from $12.6 billion in 2017 and $12.2 billion in 2016. Collectively, the group's lifetime giving—a tally of funds distributed by their foundations plus direct gifts—exceeds $173 billion. Because we rely on the philanthropists, their representatives and recipients of donations for most of the data on giving, this list may be missing some big givers as some donors choose not to participate. See below for methodology and details on all the givers.
Edited By Jennifer Wang