America’s 50 top philanthropists include 12 arts donors


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The most generous members of the 1% devoted more than 2% of their charitable giving last year to arts and culture, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, which issued Monday its annual ranking of America’s 50 most generous donors.


Reporters for the Chronicle found specific donations of at least $1 million to arts and cultural institutions by 12 of the 50, totaling $213.4 million.

The Philanthropy 50, as the Chronicle calls them, gave $10.4 billion in total charitable donations in 2011, more than three times the $3.3 billion they donated in 2010.

Just about all of that increase can be attributed to Margaret A. Cargill of La Jolla, who died in 2006, leaving a bequest to two foundations she had established, resulting in gifts that the Chronicle placed at $6 billion. Cargill, needless to say, was No. 1 in the rankings.

The Chronicle’s methodology on arts giving among Philanthropy 50 wasn’t sufficiently fine-tuned to capture all the arts interests of top donors.

For example, the Chronicle did not identify Cargill (pictured), as a cultural donor, because it counted all $6 billion as a gift to a foundation, rather than one that would benefit the arts. But Cargill’s will specified that Native American culture and folk art will be one of the areas funded regularly through her foundations –- potentially yielding millions of dollars in annual arts giving.

Eli and Edythe Broad ranked 49th on the list, with $27 million donated to their Broad Foundations, but the Chronicle didn’t count any of it as an arts-specific gift. But contemporary art is one of four causes the foundations support, and the Broad Art Foundation’s average annual spending from 2008 to 2010 was $4.8 million, according to its federal tax returns.


The Broads are likely to have a spot reserved in the Philanthropy 50 in the next few years as they begin funding the downtown Broad Collection museum -- to the tune of $130 million for construction and $200 million for an endowment. The parking garage beneath the museum is almost finished, Broad spokeswoman Karen Denne said Friday, with construction on the museum itself expected to begin next month.

Also not broken out separately was the arts component of a $65 million gift to Ohio State University from Leslie and Abigail Wexner (ranked 21st), partly to fund the school’s Wexner Center for the Arts.

The top individual cultural gifts noted by the Chronicle were $70 million to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, by Arthur and Margaret Glasgow, the lion’s share of a $125 million bequest that ranked them ninth; $35 million for the Miami Science Museum from Phillip and Patricia Frost (37th); $30 million for the Miami Art Museum from Jorge Perez (tied for 43rd); $30 million for a new arts complex at Columbia University in New York, and $5 million for the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia from Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest (17th).

The list also noted $25 million to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Israel, from Sheldon and Miriam Adelson (tied for 43rd); $17.4 million for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial in Washington and $1.75 million for the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark from Eric Ross (16th); $12 million for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington from David Rubenstein (20th); $7.6 million for the Experience Music Project and the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle from Paul Allen (who ranked third, with total gifts of $372.6 million); $5 million for the San Diego Symphony from Irwin and Joan Jacobs (ranked 22nd with $64.9 million total giving); and $1 million for San Diego Opera from Conrad Prebys (ranked 24th with total donations of $63.1 million).

The Chronicle noted that 14 of the Philanthropy 50 are Californians -– the most of any state, and 22 institutions in the state received largess from people on the list, also tops in the nation.

It also found that those doing the heaviest philanthropic lifting in 2011 were not necessarily those with the biggest piles -– only 21 of the 50 were on Forbes magazine’s list of the 400 richest Americans. The Chronicle reported that Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates didn’t make the Philanthropy 50 for 2011 because it only counts new commitments; most of their charity went toward fulfilling multiyear pledges they’d made previously.


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For the record, 1:05 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said that Margaret Cargill’s bequest had established the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies. The money went to two foundations that Cargill had created before 2011.

For the record, 4:48 p.m. Feb. 7: In an earlier version of this post, Phillip Frost’s first name was misspelled Philip, David Rubenstein’s last name was spelled Rubinstein. Also, No. 3 donor Paul Allen was incorrectly listed as second.

-- Mike Boehm