Latest News

Forbes ranks the wealthiest Americans' charitable giving

Written on Nov 9, 2022

Forbes recently released a report detailing how charitable the richest Americans really are, but the report isn’t particularly flattering. 

Forbes assigned a philanthropy score, ranging from 1 to 5, to each member of The Forbes 400. If they couldn’t find any information about a person’s giving and they declined to provide details, they received a score of N/A. 

Fifty-five individuals on the Forbes 400 received a score of N/A with no available record of charitable giving. The majority – 144 individuals—have given away less than 1% of their net worth. At the top of the ranking, only nine individuals have given away more than 20% of their net worth. 

With less than 7% of the 400 wealthiest Americans giving away more than 10% of their net worth, the report goes a long way to making these billionaires seem less than philanthropic. But experts say there are two things to bear in mind about this kind of report. 

First, ranking charitable giving as a percentage of net worth is a strange approach. As Forbes notes in its methodology, they take “into account all types of assets: stakes in public and private companies, real estate, art, yachts, planes, ranches, vineyards, jewelry, car collections and more.” 

Many of these wealthy individuals have a great deal of their net worth tied up in businesses that they are still running or involved with. In other words, their net worth isn’t “cash” that can be easily given away. Sure, they might buy fewer yachts and support more charities—that would be good for everyone—but the decision to donate or not isn’t always so simple as balancing jewelry and planes against charity. 

Second, the sheer scale of net worth is not an indication of propensity to give. The 400 individuals on the Forbes list have massive amounts of money to donate, however, very few have shown themselves to have a significant interest in charitable giving. 

Here’s a rundown of the scoring: 

  1. Has given away less than 1% of wealth 

Who got this score: Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Google cofounder Larry Page and 142 others. 

  1. Has given away 1% to 4.99% of wealth 

Who got this score: Google cofounder Sergey Brin, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and 118 others. 

  1. Has given away 5% to 9.99% of wealth 

Who got this score: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, brokerage billionaire Charles Schwab and 52 others. 

  1. Has given away 10% to 19.99% of wealth 

Who got this score: Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, hedge fund investor Jim Simons and 16 others. 

  1. Has given away 20% or more of wealth 

Who got this score: Bill Gates, Melinda French Gates, MacKenzie Scott, Warren Buffett, George Soros, Gordon Moore, Amos Hostetter Jr., Lynn Schusterman and John Arnold.