A Close Look At The Most Generous US Givers in 2020


Despite the fact that the world was experiencing economic shut downs due to a pandemic, giving was on the rise in 2020. The top 50 Americans who generously gave in the midst of hardship handed out almost $25 billion to hospitals, homeless shelters, universities, and museums. This giving amount was an increase of about 54% from 2019 total giving.

Who were the biggest US donors, and where did they choose to give their funds? Let’s take a look at the most generous big US givers in 2020.

Who Made The Top 5 List Of Generous Donors in 2020?

Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that Jeff Bezos and his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott made the top of the list, with Bezos giving a whopping $10 billion to his Earth Fund to fight climate change, and Scott donating $5 billion going to Historically Black Colleges, causes that support women, LGBT rights, and racial equality groups. Third on the list is Michael Bloomberg, giving more than $1.5 billion with most of it going to his political campaign. Fourth on the list is Philip and Penelope Knight, giving approximately $1.4 billion mostly to science studies at choice universities. Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey falls fifth in line with his contributions of just slightly more than $1 billion to fund COVID-19 relief.

Pandemic and Racial Injustice Among Top Recipients Of Giving

In 2020, the main charities that benefited from generous donors included pandemic and racial justice related causes. Many Americans stepped up and gave to food banks, social service nonprofits, homelessness assistance groups, racial equity, and education. Also, performing arts organizations came to a screeching halt when live entertainment was put on hold causing their ticket sales revenue to dip drastically. However, donors came to the rescue in an effort to keep arts alive. Performing Arts organizations saw an increase in 2020 giving from $51 million in 2019 to $65 million. Donors that gave generously but did not even make the Top 10 list also chose to give to racial equity with Michael Jordan handing over at least $50 million and Netflix CEO giving $120 million to Morehouse College, Spelman College, and UNCF.

Troubling Giving Trends

With all of the generosity that increased throughout an economically trying year, there are still questions raised about these wealthy giving habits. For instance, of the approximate $14 billion of giving in 2020 much went to foundations that are led by the givers themselves to what is known as donor-advised funds. These funds work similar to foundations in that the donor sets aside money for a charity before they actually give away the funds to the nonprofits. Once they set the money aside, they receive tax benefits before actually giving the funds.

What To Expect in 2021?

It is likely that as we move forward through the pandemic that major gifts which support racial and social justice may continue. Much of the giving may come in forms other than financial donations, however, as individuals give their time and talents to support causes they believe in.  More transparency in philanthropy can be expected as well.