The 2005 Slate 60: Donations

Analysis of the year's biggest philanthropists.
Feb. 20 2006 8:19 AM

The 2005 Slate 60: Donations

The 60 largest American charitable contributions of the year.

Cordelia Scaife May

Cordelia Scaife May—$404 million to the Colcom Foundation, the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, and National Tropical Botanical Garden. May, who died in January 2005 at 76, left most of her estate—property and cash worth approximately $400 million that she inherited from the Mellon banking fortune—to the Colcom Foundation in Pittsburgh. May started the foundation in 1996, naming it for one of her favorite books, Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. The foundation supports groups that promote conservation and environmental protection, efforts to improve education, and stricter immigration limits in the United States. In past years the foundation usually made grants totaling about $1 million, but with its new infusion of cash, the foundation was able to make grants totaling more than $4.8 million in 2005, and its total assets have grown to more than $250 million. The foundation has already approved additional grants of about $2 million for future payment. May also bequeathed to the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii 34 acres of pasture and 35 acres of waterfront property, both near Maui, which together are worth an estimated $3 million. Her will did not stipulate how the land should be used, but the conservancy plans to donate the pasture land to the Kipahulu Valley extension of the Haleakala National Park, which sits next to the property, and to preserve the waterfront parcel, which contains a ship landing dating from the 19th century. May left an additional parcel of land, worth about $1 million, to the National Tropical Botanical Garden in the Lawai Valley of Kauai, Hawaii, where she was a trustee for 25 years.

William H. (Bill) III and Melinda F. Gates

William H. (Bill) III and Melinda F. Gates—$320 million to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill Gates, 50, co-founder and chairman of Microsoft, and his wife, Melinda, 41, added funds to the foundation they created in 2000, which supports education, global health, and libraries, as well as charities in the Pacific Northwest. (Disclosure: Melinda Gates is a member of the board of directors of the Washington Post Co., which owns Slate.) The money is the second of several expected installments paid on an approximately $3.35 billion pledge the couple made to the foundation in 2004, the year they received a stock dividend of that size from Microsoft.

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Boone Pickens—$229.2 million to Oklahoma State University,  the American Red Cross, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation, and the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. Pickens, 77, founder of Mesa Petroleum and BP Capital Management, in Dallas, donated $165 million to his alma mater, Oklahoma State University, for athletics facilities. He also gave $25.1 million to Oklahoma State to pay off a $20 million pledge made in 2003 and provide other support. Pickens, a fund-raiser for former President Ronald Reagan, donated $10 million to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation, in Simi Valley, Calif., for its Air Force One Pavilion and endowment. His other large gifts included $8.1 million to the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, in Dallas, and $7 million to the American Red Cross, the majority of which supported relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Pickens also provided $11.5 million to more than 90 charitable organizations in Texas and elsewhere in the United States focusing on health, social services, advocacy, and other causes. He also made a $1.5 million pledge—of which $500,000 was paid—to the Media Research Center, in Alexandria, Va., and a $1 million pledge, of which $200,000 was paid, to the Visiting Nurse Association of Texas, in Dallas, for a Meals on Wheels program.

George Soros

George Soros—$205.9 million to Central European University. Soros, 75, chairman of Soros Fund Management, a hedge-fund management firm in New York, gave $205.9 million to Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, for its endowment and pledged another $24.2 million to the university's business school. Soros, who is Hungarian-American, helped found the university, which opened in 1991.

Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg—$144 million to arts, education, health-care, and social-services charities. Mr. Bloomberg, 64, the mayor of New York and founder of Bloomberg L.P., a financial-data and news-service business, donated $144 million to 850 nonprofit organizations that focus on the arts, education, health care, and social services. Although he refused to name any of the organizations to which he gave money, rumors flew in June when the Carnegie Corporation of New York announced that it had received $20 million from an anonymous donor who wanted the money distributed to New York City groups. Counting the $20 million in 2005, Carnegie has received $55 million from this same anonymous donor during the last four years. The rumor got press attention when an unnamed aide to Mr. Bloomberg and an anonymous Carnegie official told the New York Times that the gift was indeed from Mr. Bloomberg. However, both Carnegie and City Hall officials say that they will not confirm whether Mr. Bloomberg was indeed the donor.

Pierre and Pam Omidyar—$133.7 million to Tufts University, HopeLab, and the Omidyar Network. Pierre Omidyar, 38, founder and chairman of eBay, and Pam Omidyar, 38, founder and chairwoman of HopeLab, in Palo Alto, Calif., which develops technology to help chronically ill children, gave $103 million to Tufts University, in Medford, Mass., for microfinance investments. The donors are both graduates of Tufts. The university will use the money to make small loans to businesses in developing countries, and direct income from the loans toward endowment, scholarships, and other programs. The Omidyars also gave $21.7 million to the nonprofit arm of the Omidyar Network, in Redwood City, Calif. The couple founded the network in 2004 to take over the operations of the couple's foundation; one branch of the network gives money to nonprofit organizations, while the other is a for-profit unit that invests in businesses that promote social change. The nonprofit branch of the network supports organizations such as KaBOOM in Washington, Global Giving in Bethesda, Md., and other nonprofit groups. The Omidyars also gave $9 million to HopeLab and other nonprofit organizations.  

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