But John C. Malone (No. 28 on The Chronicle’s list), the billionaire chairman of Liberty Media, warns that the “scapegoating” of wealthy individuals might make them more hesitant to give away big money in the public eye, and could even stop them from giving altogether.
“They will either try to do whatever they think is appropriate out of the press, or they will perhaps decide to reallocate their capital,” says Mr. Malone, who last year gave $57 million to Yale University and a public charter-school network.
Melissa Berman, president of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, says the gap between rich and poor is influencing how some wealthy clients think about philanthropy. One new foundation client is zeroing in on human needs in New York, she says, while longtime supporters of education want to ensure their money prepares people for jobs.
But The Chronicle survey shows that the “haves” of the nonprofit world – namely the larger, better-known charities – got the lion’s share of gifts.
Excluding Ms. Cargill’s bequest, 36 percent of the dollars from benefactors on the Philanthropy 50 went to higher education; 35 percent went to private foundations; 15 percent to hospitals, medical centers, and medical research; and 7 percent to museums, libraries, and historic preservation. No Philanthropy 50 donor gave a gift of $5 million or more directly to a social-service group.
It’s not that wealthy people don’t write checks to such charities. They do, according to Chronicle data and interviews with donors. They just reserve their $25 million, and even their $5 million, gifts for other types of institutions.
That’s in part because many philanthropists don’t see human-service organizations as the best way to alleviate America’s problems. And that’s not likely to change even in light of the country’s lingering economic troubles.