America’s 50 biggest donors gave $7.8 billion to charitable causes in 2018, a 50% drop from the previous year. Artificial intelligence and privacy were among their top concerns, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy. As usual, technology company executives featured prominently in the magazine's annual ranking. Scroll down to discover who the biggest philanthropists were in 2018.

1.Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos Inc. (AMZN) founder Jeff and ex-wife Mackenzie Bezos made the list for the first time in 2018, knocking Bill Gates off the top spot. Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, and his other half gave about 1.5% of their total net worth, or $2 billion, to fund nonprofit schools and homeless charities through their "Day One Fund." The two will likely donate separately going forward, however, as their marital divorce was finalized on July 6, 2019.

Key Takeaways

  • Leaders from the technology industry are represented well in the list of largest philanthropists for 2018.
  • Overall, their donations were down 50% from a year earlier.
  • Artificial intelligence and privacy were top concerns among the philanthropists in 2018.
  • Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos topped the list with donations worth $2 billion.
  • Michael Bloomberg has now donated more than $6 billion after giving another $767 million in 2018.

2.Michael Bloomberg

The former mayor of New York City and founder of the Bloomberg financial news empire gave up 7.3% of his personal worth to several different causes, including the arts, education, environment, public-health groups, and programs aimed at improving city governments worldwide. Bloomberg donated $767 million in 2018 and has now given more than $6.4 billion to nonprofits during his lifetime.

3.Pierre and Pam Omidyar

EBay Inc. (EBAY) founder Omidyar and his wife Pam regularly gift money to charity. In 2018, they gave 3.4% of their net worth, or $392 million, to various nonprofits, many of which they founded and helped to run. One beneficiary was Luminate, a charity and LLC that the couple established in October to support organizations fighting for strong civic participation, data and digital rights, financial transparency, and an independent news media.

4.Stephen Schwarzman

Schwarzman, the co-founder and CEO of private equity giant Blackstone, gave $350 million to a new $1 billion college for the study of artificial intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and donated a total of $390 million in 2018. The billionaire has a net worth of $13.2 billion.

5.Steve and Connie Ballmer

Steve, the former Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) CEO and owner of the Los Angeles Clippers Basketball team, and his wife are big backers of economic mobility programs, mainly in Los Angeles, Southeast Michigan, and Washington State. In 2018, they contributed 0.7% of their total net worth, or $295 million, to their charitable foundation, the Ballmer Group Donor Advised Fund.

6.Paul Allen

Before passing away in Oct. 2018, the Microsoft co-founder continued to be generous. Last year, he gave up 1.3% of his personal worth, or more than $260 million, to a number of causes. They included contributing to the arts and education, studies to improve artificial intelligence problem-solving and analysis on how the human immune system works.

7.Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan

Zuckerberg and his wife saw their net worth fall to about $65 billion in 2018 after Facebook Inc. (FB) was embroiled in a data scandal. Nevertheless, they continued to funnel money into the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Donor Advised Fund last year, which focuses on education, science, criminal justice reform, research, and health care. Their donations totaled $213.5 million for the year.

8.John and Laura Arnold

The retired hedge fund manager and his wife donated just over 6% of their personal wealth in 2018. Over $129 million went to the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, which focuses on criminal justice, keeping prescription drugs costs down and programs aimed at separating school oversight from campus operations. The other $75.1 million was primarily donated to arts, educational, and human-service groups in Houston and elsewhere. Combined, the two gave $204.3 million.

9.Jay Alix

The turnaround expert known for advising corporate giants such as General Motors Co. (GM), Kmart, and Enron gave away just shy of 17% of his net worth to the Mayo Clinic. Alix has been donating to the institution since the 1980s and has been a patient there. He even said that he used its business model for his own company. Total donations in 2018 equaled $200 million.

10.Edward Bass

The Texas-based venture capitalist and oil tycoon gave up just under 7% of his net worth, or $160 million total, to help transform Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History. Bass, a former Yale student, has been making substantial donations to the college since 1968.