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Warren Buffett tops list of America's biggest givers after donating nearly $15 billion in 5 years

Business Insider logo Business Insider 1/21/2020 Theron Mohamed
a man wearing a suit and tie © Bill Pugliano/Getty

a man wearing a suit and tie © Bill Pugliano/Getty

  • Warren Buffett topped the list of America's biggest givers after donating almost $15 billion to charitable causes between 2014 and 2018.
  • The famed investor and Berkshire Hathaway boss led the pack in all five years, primarily giving to causes chosen by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.
  • The high-profile philanthropist couple ranked second after Buffett, beating out George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, and the Walton family.
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Warren Buffett gave nearly $15 billion to charitable causes between 2014 and 2018, topping a list of America's 25 biggest givers compiled by Forbes and SHOOK Research.

The famed investor and Berkshire Hathaway boss led the pack in all five years, giving mostly to causes chosen by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The high-profile philanthropist couple took second place, followed by hedge-fund manager George Soros, former New York City mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, and Walmart founder Sam Walton's family.

Forbes and SHOOK ignored pledges to give and donations to charitable vehicles, focusing instead on money that reached beneficiaries. They also calculated what percentage of each giver's fortune was given away.

Buffett donated $14.7 billion or just over 16% of his $90 billion net worth, the pair found. As part of the Giving Pledge he took in 2006, the billionaire vowed to gradually give more than 99% of his wealth to philanthropic foundations.

"In my entire lifetime, everything that I've spent will be quite a bit less than 1% of everything I've made," the billionaire said in "Becoming Warren Buffett," a HBO documentary.

"The other 99% plus will go to others because it has no utility to me," Buffett added. "So it's silly for me to not transfer that utility to people who can use it. It's doing me no good."

The Gates, his close friends, gave away nearly $10 billion or about 9% of their almost $110 billion Microsoft fortune. Their high-profile foundation focuses on healthcare, education, economic development, and tackling poverty.

Soros gave $3 billion - roughly 37% of his $8.3 billion fortune - to causes such as protecting voting rights and reforming the criminal-justice system. Bloomberg gave $2.3 billion, or about 5% of his $60 billion net worth, towards fighting climate change, improving public health, and strengthening gun control.

Meanwhile, the Walton Family Foundation deployed $2.3 billion - about 1.3% of the $181 billion Walmart fortune - to educational and environmental initiatives.

Other notable entries on the list were Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, who gave away $1 billion, representing 1.2% of their $82 billion net worth. Duty Free Shoppers cofounder Chuck Feeney - who told Forbes he aspired to die broke - distributed $1.6 billion to nonprofits in the five-year period.

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