Jeff Bezos to Mark Zuckerberg: Silicon Valley's Top 10 Philanthropists

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Jeff Bezos, left, and Mark Zuckerberg

Here's where the top tech execs are pouring millions — and, in one instance, billions — into charity, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy's annual list of America’s most generous donors.

Each year, The Chronicle of Philanthropy releases their Philanthropy 50 list of America’s most generous donors, in addition to routinely updating their database of $1 million+ publicized gifts. Joining financiers in the top echelons are the tech giants of Silicon Valley, including Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg.

“Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs give at a higher level than Hollywood people do. People tend to think of people in Hollywood as some of the wealthiest in the country, but it’s not the same level of wealth,” explains Maria DiMento, Chronicle's expert on major gifts. SV entrepreneurs also often donate through their foundations or donor-advised funds, like Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s Chan Zuckerberg Initiative giving a $68 million grant to Human Cell Atlas to map human cells.

Folks in Hollywood and NorCal typically give to the same causes, including education and medical research, “but Silicon Valley isn’t giving that much to the arts, interestingly,” says DiMento, adding that among SV donors, there's an emerging emphasis on artificial intelligence (late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen) and independent journalism (Craigslist's Craig Newmark, eBay's Pierre Omidyar). “Between trying to give to shore up independent journalism and to get ethics to become a bigger part of thinking for people who develop A.I., you’re seeing donors who really see danger," she explains. "They see this as a way they can direct their wealth toward helping society in a way that hasn’t been done in the past because these weren’t really issues 30, 40 years ago.”

See below for the top giving coming from Silicon Valley.

Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos - $2 billion: In 2018, Bezos and his then-wife answered critics of the Amazon founder’s relative dearth of charitable giving by pouring billions into a Day One Fund to help low-income nonprofit preschools and the homeless. 

Pierre and Pam Omidyar - $392 million: The eBay founder and his with wife have given to a number of nonprofits, some out of their own Omidyar Network, including Luminate, which supports groups fighting for data and digital rights and an independent news media.

Steve and Connie Ballmer - $295 million: The former Microsoft chief exec and L.A. Clippers owner and his wife back economic mobility organizations in L.A. and Washington state, where they live, through their donor-advised fund at Goldman Sachs Philanthropy.

Paul Allen - $261 million: The Microsoft co-founder gave a number of big gifts prior to his death in October 2018. He launched Project Alexandria, now called Mosaic, to study how to improve artificial intelligence problem solving in addition to creating a new institute to analyze how the human immune system works.

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan - $214 million: The Facebook founder and his wife have recently funneled more than 1.4 million shares into their donor-advised fund for criminal justice reform and health care, among other causes.

Craig Newmark - $144 million: In 2018, among other media-related initiatives, the Craigslist founder gave $20  million from his eponymous umbrella foundation to create Markup, a nonprofit news group that aims to investigate the societal impact of new technologies.

Bill and Melinda Gates - $138 million: The Microsoft co-founder and his wife continue to fund efforts in global health, development, policy and advocacy, and U.S. education through their $50.7 billion Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

Sheryl Sandberg - $101 million: Facebook's COO gave big to her donor-advised Sheryl Sandberg Philanthropy Fund, which will support LeanIn.org, a group she started to promote female leadership, and OptionB.org, a website she founded to help people struggling with grief. Sandberg also seeded the newly created Sandberg Goldberg Charitable Support Fund but has not yet made public what the new grant maker will support.

Evan and Sara Williams - $100 million: Through their Someland Foundation, the Twitter co-founder, who also created Medium and Blogger, and his wife support Code for America, Data and Society Research Institute, Electronic Frontier Foundation, San Francisco Unified School District, Bay Area arts and culture groups, and charities to help young people prepare for the future.

Marc and Lynne Benioff - $100 million: The founder of Salesforce.com and his wife spread donations across cancer research, health care, homelessness, ocean health and public schools. One such gift was for $6.1 million to Tenderloin Housing Clinic to renovate a dilapidated San Francisco hotel into housing for the homeless.

Brian Acton - $50 million: The WhatsApp co-founder gave to create nonprofit Signal Foundation to support and expand the building and maintenance of Signal, a free, encrypted messaging app that promises surveillance-free communication and potentially to create other privacy-focused and data-protected technologies that people can access for free.

A version of this story first appeared in the July 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.