Despite a rocky stock market that sent many fortunes plunging, the country’s most generous billionaires doled out more money than in each of the previous two years.
In a year when both the U.S. stock market and billionaire fortunes tumbled, charitable donations by the country’s most generous philanthropists moved in the opposite direction. The nation’s 25 biggest givers have donated $196 billion over their lifetimes through the end of 2022, according to Forbes’ estimates. That’s up from $169 billion a year ago, mostly due to ongoing giving by these big donors and some new information. The $27 billion jump in giving in the past year actually outpaced the $20 billion gain we measured in the two prior years, and was more than double the sum the top 25 gave away in 2018.
The increase in giving comes at a time when fortunes have fallen. These 25 philanthropists are together worth $936 billion—$164 billion less than a year ago, a 15% drop. Seventeen of them have signed The Giving Pledge, promising to donate at least half their fortune during their lifetime or after they pass away. Most of them have a long way to go before meeting that goal. Three who have met it: Chuck Feeney, T. Denny Sanford and George Soros.
Warren Buffett tops the list of givers yet again, as measured by total amount given away. He’s been handing over billions of dollars worth of Berkshire Hathaway stock annually for 17 years–and continued that tradition last June. We estimate that Buffett gave away $5.4 billion in 2022 and $51.5 billion in his lifetime ; the latter sum is nearly $13 billion more than that of Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates. Bill gave $20 billion to the Gates Foundation in July 2022–far more than Buffett’s $3.1 billion gift of stock to the foundation last year. However, for this list, Forbes counts the contributions paid out by those foundations, rather than gifts made to them.
Two newcomers joined the list of top 25 givers this year: Google cofounder Sergey Brin and hedge fund magnate Ken Griffin, who have given away $2.55 billion and $1.56 billion, respectively. In December, Forbes learned that Brin had quietly donated $1.1 billion to date toward Parkinson’s research, making him the largest individual donor to that disease and one of just a few people alive who’ve put more than $1 billion toward a specific disease. Brin also donates to climate change and sustainability, including to a nonprofit launched in late 2021 called Climate Imperative, and to poverty alleviation and economic mobility. Griffin, who made a $150 million pledge to Harvard in 2014 for financial aid, has ramped up his giving in recent years, including donating $130 million to 40 nonprofit groups in Chicago in June, the same month he announced he was moving to Miami. These two newcomers replace Julian Robertson Jr., who died in August 2022, and Leonard Lauder, who fell short.
MacKenzie Scott, the novelist and former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has continued to give money to a large number of groups at an astonishingly rapid pace. In 2022 she announced that she’d donated $5.8 billion to about 800 nonprofits over 17 months beginning in June 2021. In less than three years she’s given away a total of $14.43 billion–more than anyone except Buffett, Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates and George Soros–all of whom have been at it for 15 or 20 years or more. In December, Scott published all the grants she’s made so far on a searchable website called Yield Giving.
Scott is part of a trend among billionaire philanthropists working to be more transparent about their charitable giving. Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Steve and Connie Ballmer’s Ballmer Group, George Soros’ Open Society Network, Pierre and Pam Omidyar’s Omidyar Network, Laura and John Arnold’s Arnold Ventures and the Gates Foundation publish some or all of their grants online–though the listings aren’t always promptly updated with the most recent year’s grants. Some of them provide details on the area of giving and the grant period of the gift.
Our estimates factor in the total lifetime giving of Americans, measured in dollars given to charitable recipients—in other words, we are not including money parked in a foundation that has yet to do any good. To that end, we also do not include gifts that have been pledged but not yet paid out, or money given to donor-advised funds—opaque, tax-advantaged accounts that have neither disclosure nor distribution requirements—unless the giver shared details about the grants that were actually paid by such entities. This is a list of individuals and couples who are U.S. citizens; as a result, we excluded extended families like the Waltons, controlling shareholders of Walmart, and big givers like Hansjoerg Wyss, who lives in the U.S. but is a Swiss citizen. We also don’t list deceased individuals. Net worths are as of January 19, 2023.
Here’s the full list of America’s 25 most generous givers:
Source of wealth: Berkshire Hathaway
Net worth: $106 billion
Giving focus: Health, poverty alleviation
Lifetime giving: $51.5 billion
Change vs year ago: + $5.4 billion
In 2006, the legendary investor pledged to give away nearly all of his fortune. Some 17 years–and more than $50 billion–later, he’s likely the biggest philanthropist of all time. Much of Buffett’s money has gone to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where his Giving Pledge cofounders have put it to use on poverty and healthcare initiatives in developing countries and education in America. Billions have also gone to four charities set up by his three children and his late wife, including $760 million just before Thanksgiving last November. “I’ve got a personal pride in how my kids turned out,” Buffett told CNBC after giving the four Buffett family foundations an extra three quarters of a billion. “I feel good about the fact that they know I feel good about them. This is the ultimate endorsement in my kids, and it’s the ultimate statement that my kids don’t want to be dynastically wealthy.”
Bill Gates & Melinda French Gates
Source of wealth: Microsoft, investments
Net worth: $102 billion, $6.6 billion
Giving focus: Health, poverty alleviation
Lifetime giving: $38.4 billion
Change vs a year ago: + $5 billion
Despite their 2021 divorce, Bill and Melinda continue to co-chair the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest private charitable foundation and the primary vehicle for their philanthropic giving. As we did last year, Forbes is counting the former couple’s donations as a combined number. Last July, Bill told Forbes that the Gates Foundation plans to increase its grant making by 50% to $9 billion annually by 2026. To assist with that goal, that same month he donated $20 billion to the foundation; in early January, the foundation said it was increasing its 2023 budget to $8.3 billion, its largest ever. Meanwhile, Melinda is also branching out on her own. In 2019, she committed to donate $1 billion over a decade, via her company Pivotal Ventures, toward gender equality.
Source of wealth: Hedge funds
Net worth: $6.7 billion
Giving focus: Democracy, education, human rights
Lifetime giving: $18.4 billion
Change vs year ago: + $300 million
Soros’ Open Society Foundations, active in 120 countries, support human rights, justice reform, democratic governance and more. In March 2022, the group gave $25 million to create the Ukraine Democracy Fund to support civil society in Ukraine, a month after Russia launched a war against the country; it raised an additional $20 million for the fund from other donors. Last February, Open Society awarded 16 individuals working toward racial justice and equality in the Black community in the U.S., the group’s first Justice Rising awards. Soros has not made public its total 2022 grants.
Source of wealth: Amazon.com
Net worth: $27.8 billion
Giving focus: Economic, racial and gender inequality
Lifetime giving: $14.43 billion
Change vs. year ago: + $5.82 billion
In December, Scott delivered on her promise to detail all the grants she’s made so far on a website called Yield Giving; it lists the 1,600 groups to which she’s donated in the past three years. On the site she explains that Yield was “established to share a financial fortune created through the effort of many people,” adding that it “is named after a belief in adding value by giving up control.” Scott, who was previously married to Jeff Bezos, got a 4% stake in Amazon in their divorce settlement in 2019. In 2022, she announced that she’d donated $5.82 billion over 17 months starting in June 2021, including $436 million to homebuilding group Habitat for Humanity last March.
Source of wealth: Bloomberg LP
Net worth: $76.8 billion
Giving focus: Climate change, health, education
Lifetime giving: $14.4 billion
Change vs year ago: + $1.7 billion
In April, the former New York City mayor announced gifts totaling $200 million to two charter schools in his home city as part of a $750 million, five-year national effort announced in December 2021. A month later, Bloomberg committed $242 million to accelerate clean energy transition in developing countries. Then from July to September he pledged $115 million to heart disease non-profit Resolve to Save Lives, $204 million for ocean protection, and $85 million to block construction of more than 120 new petrochemical projects. According to Bloomberg Philanthropies, he has committed the vast majority of his profits from Bloomberg L.P. which he cofounded in 1981, to philanthropy, doling out $1.7 billion in 2022 across five key areas: the arts, education, environment, government innovation and public health.
Charles “Chuck” Feeney
Source of wealth: Duty Free Shoppers
Net worth: Under $2 million
Giving focus: Science, human rights, youth
Lifetime giving: $8 billion
Change vs. year ago: none
Feeney, a former billionaire and cofounder of Duty Free Shoppers, has practically given away all of his fortune in an effort to die broke. He began by donating parts of his fortune anonymously, but later went public with his donations, influencing the Gateses and Buffett to create The Giving Pledge in 2010. Feeney and his wife Helga shut down the Atlantic Philanthropies foundation in 2020 after it gave away all its assets.
Gordon & Betty Moore
Source of wealth: Intel
Net worth: $7 billion
Giving focus: Science, environment, Bay Area
Lifetime giving: $5.8 billion
Change vs. year ago: $300 million
The cofounder and former CEO of semiconductor firm Intel and his wife launched their foundation in 2000, funding it with gifts of Intel stock. In June, the Moore foundation joined 10 other private funders–including Bezos Earth Fund and Bloomberg Philanthropies–in the Protecting Our Planet Challenge, a $5 billion pledge to protect 30% of the most important areas of the planet by 2030–including biodiverse land and oceans.
Jim & Marilyn Simons
Source of wealth: Hedge funds
Net worth: $28.1 billion
Giving focus: Basic science, math
Lifetime giving: $5.2 billion
Change vs. year ago: + $1.9 billion
Simons, founder of quantitative hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, has given billions towards math education and basic science research through the New York City-based Simons Foundation, which he and his wife Marilyn founded in 1994. In May 2022, the couple pledged $56.6 million to Stony Brook University–where Simons formerly worked as a math professor –to support STEM students from underrepresented backgrounds. SPARK, a Simons Foundation autism research initiative launched in 2016, is now the largest study of autism to date, with the participation of 100,000 people with autism and 175,000 of their family members; the goal is to understand what causes the neurodevelopmental condition.
Mark Zuckerberg & Priscilla Chan
Source of wealth: Facebook
Net worth: $49.3 billion
Giving focus: Science, education, criminal justice
Lifetime giving: $3.9 billion
Change vs. year ago: + $900 million
The Facebook (now Meta) CEO and his wife have done their giving since 2015 through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, known as CZI, which is funding research to eradicate all disease, improve education and address community needs. CZI donated $100 million in 2022 to launch the Kempner Institute for the Study of Natural and Artificial Intelligence at Harvard University, named in honor of Zuckerberg’s mother, Karen Kempner Zuckerberg, and her parents. In September 2022, CZI announced a five year, $46 million pledge to advance genomics research at the U.S.’s four historically Black medical colleges–Charles Drew University College of Medicine, Howard University School of Medicine, Meharry Medical College and Morehouse School of Medicine.
Phil & Penny Knight
Source of wealth: Nike
Net worth: $47.3 billion
Giving focus: Education
Lifetime giving: $3.37 billion
Change vs. year ago: + $270 million
In April 2022, the Nike cofounder and his wife Penny promised Stanford University $75 million to launch The Phil & Penny Knight Initiative for Brain Resilience, a multidisciplinary effort to study the causes of cognitive decline. That’s on top of previous pledges of more than $2.5 billion to three universities: the University of Oregon, where Phil Knight ran track; Oregon Health & Science University, and Stanford, where Phil got his MBA.
Edythe Broad & family
Source of wealth: Investments
Net worth: $6.9 billion
Giving focus: Education, arts, science
Lifetime giving: $3.14 billion
Change vs. year ago: +$340 million
Edythe is carrying on the charitable giving she did with her late husband Eli–the homebuilding and insurance billionaire who died in 2021. She donates to a host of Los Angeles nonprofits, including the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, which supports public schools in marginalized communities. The Broad Art Foundation funds The Broad, a contemporary art museum in downtown Los Angeles with free admission to its general collection. In 2004 the couple gave an initial $100 million to create The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, which evolved from collaborations on scientific research between the two universities; to date the couple has committed $1 billion in funding to the institute to enable its biomedical research.
Source of wealth: Amazon
Net worth: $116.9 billion
Giving focus: Environment, education
Lifetime giving: $2.79 billion
Change vs. year ago: + $690 million
The Amazon founder and executive chairman gave away $690 million in 2022, including nearly $280 million in grants dispensed by the Bezos Earth Fund, a $10 billion, decade-long commitment that Bezos announced in February 2020 with the goal of driving climate solutions; in November, the Earth Fund committed $50 million to African forest restoration. He gave $115 million to Bezos Academies, tuition-free preschools for low-income families. The Bezos Day 1 Families Fund awarded $123 million in 2022 to 40 groups in 26 states and Puerto Rico that are helping homeless families get shelter and services.
Steve & Connie Ballmer
Source of wealth: Microsoft
Net worth: $76.5 billion
Giving focus: Economic mobility
Lifetime giving: $2.9 billion
Change vs. year ago: + $800 million
The Ballmers doubled their giving in 2022 to $850 million, up from $420 million in 2021. In March 2022, the former Microsoft CEO and his wife pledged $425 million in a multi-year gift to the University of Oregon to create The Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health, which is uniting the university’s programs in psychology and education with Portland, Oregon public schools; he goal is to achieve early detection and prevention of mental health disorders in children and adolescents. The Ballmers announced in October that their son Sam Ballmer is leading their climate change giving, which includes a $50 million grant over five years to the ClimateWorks Foundation’s Drive Electric campaign, working to reach 100% zero-emission road transportation by 2050.
Source of wealth: Google
Net worth: $77.9 billion
Giving focus: Parkinson’s disease, economic mobility, climate change
Lifetime giving: $2.55 billion
Google cofounder Brin, who disclosed a decade ago that he has a genetic mutation that puts him at a higher risk for Parkinson’s disease, has donated $1.1 billion thus far toward research of the degenerative disease, Forbes reported in December. Last September, Brin’s foundation joined two other families to commit $50 million each to improve research and develop treatments for Bipolar disorder, which affects members of all three families. Through his Sergey Brin Family Foundation and via a donor-advised fund, Brin also funds climate change measures and economic mobility.
Lynn & Stacy Schusterman
Source of wealth: oil, investments
Net worth: $3.2 billion
Giving focus: Education, Jewish community, gender and reproductive equity
Lifetime giving: $2.52 billion
Change vs. year ago: +$370 million
The wife and daughter of late oil billionaire Charles Schusterman (d. 2000) run the family’s foundation and were awarded the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in October. One key area of support: initiatives that advance racial, gender and economic equity. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 2022 Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe vs. Wade, the foundation donated to several groups that assist women in accessing reproductive healthcare, including $10 million to Resources for Abortion Delivery to help women needing to travel for such care.
Michael & Susan Dell
Source of wealth: Dell computers
Net worth: $52 billion
Giving focus: Education, economic stability
Lifetime giving: $2.43 billion
Change vs. year ago: +$177 million
The computing tycoon and his wife’s Michael and Susan Dell Foundation last year announced $15 million in grants to groups in Ukraine helping families with medical needs and resettling refugees following Russia’s invasion of the country. The foundation also grants college scholarships to low-income students in the U.S. and South Africa. In India, the Dell Foundation funds credit and savings organizations for low-income families living in urban areas.
T. Denny Sanford
Source of wealth: Banking, credit cards
Net worth: $2 billion
Giving focus: Healthcare, education
Lifetime giving: $2.25 billion
Change vs. year ago: None
South Dakota’s richest resident has pumped more than $1.5 billion into Sanford Health, formerly the Sioux Valley Hospitals & Health System, which operates 47 hospitals and 224 clinics across the Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa. He’s also given north of $500 million to the Sanford College of Education at San Diego’s National University, which had planned to name itself after Sanford until it was revealed in 2020 that he was being investigated for possible possession of child pornography. In May, the South Dakota attorney general’s office closed its case without filing charges. In September, Sanford gave UC San Diego its largest single gift, a $150 million pledge to create the Sanford Stem Cell Institute for stem cell and regenerative medicine research. Sanford has not disclosed how much he donated to various pledges in 2022.
Source of wealth: Real estate
Net worth: $17.4 billion
Giving focus: Education, conservation
Lifetime giving: $2.1 billion
Change vs. year ago: + $470 million
America’s richest real estate mogul took his philanthropy to outer space in 2023, with the launch of a demo of Caltech’s Space Solar Power Project (SSPP.) Bren helped hatch the idea for the project—which seeks to harvest solar power from space and then beam it back to Earth—in 2011, when he read an article about space-based solar energy in the magazine Popular Science and reached out to Caltech’s then-president about the idea. He donated $100 million to make it a reality in 2013. A decade later, on January 3, 2023, Caltech successfully launched a prototype aboard a spacecraft carried by a SpaceX rocket (owned by fellow billionaire Elon Musk) to test key elements of the technology.
Dustin Moskovitz & Cari Tuna
Source of wealth: Facebook, Asana
Net worth: $6.8 billion
Giving focus: Global health, criminal justice
Lifetime giving: $2.11 billion
Change vs. year ago: + $670 million
In a new experiment, the Facebook cofounder and his wife launched a regranting challenge through their Open Philanthropy organization with the goal of adding $150 million in funding to the budgets of notable grants at other foundations. The five winners, announced earlier this month, include the Eleanor Crook Foundation, which funds research to end global malnutrition. The couple also donate through Good Ventures, which in 2022 donated $12.5 million Mercy for Animals to promote farm animal welfare.
Pierre & Pam Omidyar
Source of wealth: Ebay
Net worth: $9.1 billion
Giving focus: Poverty alleviation, human rights, education
Lifetime giving: $1.82 billion
Change vs. year ago: $170 million
Omidyar Network, the charitable foundation created and funded by the eBay founder and his wife Pam, announced a new area of focus in October. In addition to its prior two areas–responsible technology and reimagining capitalism–the foundation adopted the goal of building cultures of belonging. In June, Omidyar Network announced it would award $1.1 million for solutions to “imagining a more equitable data economy.” After the overturn of Roe v. Wade in June, Omidyar Network grantee GenZ for Change launched a program to extend abortion access.
Source of wealth: Koch Industries
Net worth: $58.9 billion
Giving focus: Education, poverty alleviation, criminal justice
Lifetime giving: $1.8 billion
Change vs. year ago: none
The influence of the free market loving chairman and CEO of Koch Industries is felt on college campuses nationwide. Through his Charles Koch Foundation, which accounts for nearly half his lifetime giving and focuses on “removing the barriers that keep individuals from realizing their unique potential,” Koch sent million-dollar-plus donations to at least 42 universities totaling $168 million from 2019 to 2021, according to the foundation’s most recent available tax returns. George Mason University, where Koch is a board member emeritus of the libertarian Mercatus Center, received $50 million. But the full extent of Koch’s philanthropic influence, focused on issues like poverty, healthcare and criminal justice, is harder to track, flowing through his Stand Together nonprofit network, which includes a number of 501(c)(4) advocacy groups and public charities with limited disclosure requirements. A representative for Koch did not share details of 2022 giving.
Source of wealth: Oil & gas, banking
Net worth: $13.8 billion
Giving focus: Education, health, poverty alleviation
Lifetime giving: $1.68 billion
Change vs. year ago: + $120 million
The second-richest person in the Sooner State, Kaiser has left his mark on his home city of Tulsa through the the Gathering Place, a $465 million, 66-acre riverfront park he backed and helped open in 2018, as well as philanthropic efforts through his George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF). On top of its grants and programs targeting child poverty, early education and reducing incarceration, the GKFF backed a new program in December to provide $10,000 each to 10 entrepreneurs in Tulsa to grow their small businesses. Kaiser is also helping drive more growth in Tulsa, recently supporting an expansion to a city initiative first launched in 2019 that offers $10,000 to anyone looking to relocate to Tulsa, with the aim of bringing 1,000 more people to the city in 2023.
Laura & John Arnold
Source of wealth: hedge funds
Net worth: $3.3 billion
Giving focus: Education, criminal justice, health
Lifetime giving: $1.63 billion
Change vs. year ago: + $170 million
Through their Arnold Ventures, the couple–she’s a former lawyer and he’s a former hedge fund founder– focus on evidence-based giving. New grants in 2022 include $10 million to Civica Foundation to produce biosimilar insulin, and $10 million over a decade to Habitat for Humanity to provide early-stage capital to its affiliates for affordable housing development. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe vs. Wade, they granted millions to partners like Planned Parenthood to help improve access to contraception. They continue to support job training programs for low-income people, drug addicts and youth. Criminal justice reform has been a particular focus, with millions of dollars last year supporting dozens of university research programs with an eye toward reducing pre-trial detention, better understanding racial disparities in prosecutorial decisions, and reducing prosecution of non-violent misdemeanors. UC Berkeley will receive $1 million to look into how to reduce gun violence, while $500,000 is earmarked for Loyola University of Chicago to evaluate Illinois’s Pretrial Fairness Act.
Source of wealth: hedge funds
Net worth: $32.3 billion
Giving focus: Education, economic mobility, medical research
Lifetime giving: $1.56 billion
The hedge fund billionaire moved his family and his company, Citadel, from Chicago to Miami last year, but he left his philanthropic imprint on the city. The economics department at the University of Chicago bears his name following a $125 million gift to the school, and the city’s Museum of Science and Industry–to which he gave $125 million–will be renamed after him next year. In June, before he left Chicago, Griffin gave $130 million to 40 Chicago nonprofits, including $20 million to the Northwestern Medicine healthcare system.
Source of wealth: Cable television
Net worth: $2.4 billion
Giving focus: United Nations, environment
Lifetime giving: $1.4 billion
Change vs. year ago: $2 million
The hallmark philanthropic gift from the founder of CNN and former head of Turner Broadcasting, was a $1 billion pledge to the United Nations, which he fulfilled in 2014. His interests have since shifted to land use. In February 2022, he launched the Turner Institute of Ecoagriculture to research and disseminate sustainable techniques for conserving ecosystems, agriculture and rural communities. It partnered with South Dakota State University and its Center of Excellence for Bison Studies to further research on bison and rangelands.
With reporting by Matt Durot, Chris Helman, John Hyatt, Chase Peterson-Withorn and Giacomo Tognini.