Each year the Chronicle of Philanthropy publishes a list of the 50 top charitable givers for the previous year. While some of the names on the list might not surprise you, the majority of the donors who place in the top-ten are new to this top 50 list.

It’s important to note that the vast-majority of those who are in the top-ten are making (or have made) their gifts by way of a bequest, or a gift that doesn’t become available until after their death. While it can take years to cultivate and secure a bequest from an individual donors, let seven of the top-ten help strengthen the case for why it is so important for fundraising professionals to actively pursue planned giving options.

Top 10 highest charitable givers from 2008:

Leona M. Helmsley

Rank: 1
Total amount committed in 2008: $5.2-billion
Location: New York, New York
Source of wealth: Family wealth, Hotels

Beneficiary: Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust
Donor’s background: Ms. Helmsley was the head of the Helmsley Hotel Chain, in New York..
Type of Gift: Bequest

James LeVoy Sorenson

Rank: 2
Total amount committed in 2008: $4.5-billion
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Source of wealth: Invention, Investments

Beneficiary: Sorenson Legacy Foundation
Donor’s background: Mr. Sorenson, a medical-device inventor, was chairman of Sorenson Development, a holding company and the investment arm of the Sorenson Companies, in Salt Lake City.
Type of gift: Bequest

Peter G. Peterson and Joan Ganz Cooney

Rank: 3
Total amount committed in 2008: $1-billion
Location: New York, New York
Source of wealth: Finance

Biggest beneficiary: Peter G. Peterson Foundation
Other key beneficiaries: Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics and Sesame Workshop
Donors’ background: Mr. Peterson co-founded the Blackstone Group, a New York financial firm that holds interests in corporate debt, hedge funds, private equity, and real estate. He served as secretary of commerce during the Nixon administration. Ms. Cooney co-founded the Children’s Television Workshop (now called Sesame Workshop), in New York.
Type of gift: Direct donation

Harold Alfond

Rank: 4
Total amount committed in 2008: $360-million
Location: Palm Beach, Florida
Source of wealth: Manufacturing, Retail

Beneficiary: Harold Alfond Foundation
Donor’s background: Founded Dexter Shoe Company, in Dexter, Me.
Type of gift: Bequest

Donald B. and Dorothy L. Stabler

Rank: 5
Total amount committed in 2008: $334.2-million
Location: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Source of wealth: Construction, Real estate

Biggest beneficiary: Donald B. and Dorothy L. Stabler Foundation
Other key beneficiary: Lehigh University
Donors’ background: Mr. Stabler founded the Stabler Construction Company, in Harrisburg, Pa., in 1940. The company grew into the Stabler Companies, which included 13 subsidiaries involved in businesses like highway construction; quarrying of stone, sand, and gravel; concrete manufacturing; the manufacture, sale, and servicing of highway safety equipment; and real-estate development.
Type of gift: Bequest

David G. and Suzanne D. Booth

Rank: 6
Total amount committed in 2008: $300-million
Location: Austin, Texas
Source of wealth: Finance

Beneficiary: University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Donors’ background: Mr. Booth co-founded Dimensional Fund Advisors, an international finance firm in Santa Monica, Calif. Ms. Booth is a former art conservator who has restored paintings in the collection of the Georges Pompidou Center, in Paris; in the J. Paul Getty Trust, in Los Angeles; and in the Menil Collection, in Houston.
Type of gift: Direct gift

Frank C. Doble

Rank: 7
Total amount committed in 2008: $272-million
Location: Medford, Massachusetts
Source of wealth: Energy

Beneficiaries: Lesley University and Tufts University
Donor’s background: Mr. Doble founded the Doble Engineering Company, a Watertown, Mass., company that provides diagnostic test instruments for electric power companies.
Type of gift: Bequest

Robert L. and Catherine H. McDevitt

Rank: 8
Total amount committed in 2008: $250-million
Location: Binghamton, New York
Source of wealth: Investments

Biggest beneficiary: Georgetown University
Other key beneficiaries: Le Moyne College, Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse, various other churches and universities
Donors’ background: Mr. McDevitt owned the McDevitt Brothers Funeral Home, in Binghamton, N.Y. His mother was secretary to A. Ward Ford, president of the company that eventually became IBM. She bought IBM stock early in the company’s history and gave the stock to Mr. McDevitt, who spent 70 years accumulating additional shares. The majority of the bequests he left will be paid in IBM stock.
Type of gift: Bequest

Michael R. Bloomberg

Rank: 9
Total amount committed in 2008: $235-million
Location: New York, New York
Source of wealth: Media and entertainment

Beneficiaries: Arts, education, health-care, and social-service organizations
Donor’s background: Mr. Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, founded Bloomberg LP, a financial-data and news-service company in New York.
Type of gift: Direct gift

Dorothy Clarke Patterson

Rank: 10
Total amount committed in 2008: $225-million
Location: Sarasota, Florida
Source of wealth: Family wealth

Beneficiary: Patterson Foundation
Donor’s background: Ms. Patterson was the widow of James J. Patterson, a vice president and assistant managing editor of The Daily News, a New York newspaper founded by Mr. Patterson’s father, Capt. Joseph Medill Patterson, and Col. Robert R. McCormick. Captain Patterson’s father and Colonel McCormick were cousins and also co-published the Chicago Tribune newspaper.
Type of gift: Bequest


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