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US donors pledge $50.5 bln to charity

US philanthropists had a „blockbuster” year in 2006, with the 60 most generous giving $50.5 bln (€38.5 bln), dwarfing the $4.3 bln donated in 2005.

Topping a list compiled by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, a trade newspaper, was Warren Buffett, the investment guru, who in June pledged $43.5 billion, mainly to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, created by the founder of Microsoft. Even without Buffett’s pledge, the other 59 donors gave $7 billion, up from $4.3 billion in 2005. Excluding his donation, the median amount that donors on the list committed in 2006 was $60 million, compared with $32.5 million in 2005. The number of gifts of at least $100 million also increased, from 11 in 2005 to 21. Donors broadened the scope of interests to include global warming, micro­finance initiatives, stem-cell research and the advancement of human rights for gay people, said Stacy Pal­mer, editor of the Chronicle. „Younger donors and a new generation are interested in different causes. It used to be colleges and hospitals that dominated but we are seeing a lot of interest in other causes now,” Palmer said. The source of philanthropic dollars has also shifted from the east coast, with nearly half the US’s top 10 donors last year based on the west coast.

Institutions on the west coast reaped a windfall: Stanford University received seven gifts, more than any other beneficiary. Among the top 10 givers are: Herbert and Marion Sandler ($1.3 billion), Bernard and Barbro Osher ($723.2 million), Jim Joseph ($500 million), Hector Guy and Doris Di Stefano ($264 million), David Rockefeller ($252 million), Mary Joan Palevsky ($212.8 million), T. Boone Pickens ($171.5 million) and Lorry Lokey ($163 million). Michael Bloomberg, New York City’s mayor, gave away $165 million, earning him the number nine spot. Also on the 2006 list are Oprah Winfrey, the television host, who donated $58.3 million, ranked 35; Hank Paulson, the US treasury secretary, and his wife, Wendy, who gave $100 million and tied at number 18; and George Soros, the billionaire, who gave $60 million and ranked 31. The Gates were not on the list, the Chronicle said, because it had decided not to count payments donors made on pledges announced in previous years, to avoid double-counting. Palmer said 2007 was off to „a pretty good start” following news this month that Denny Sanford, the chairman and CE of United National, a financial holding company, had given $400 million to a healthcare system in South Dakota. (