Why Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg Weren’t As Charitable in 2018

A new report published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy shows that America’s billionaires weren’t feeling quite as generous in 2018 as they were in 2017. Statistics reveal that last year, the country’s 50 most charitable billionaire’s only donated half of what they did in 2017. Nonprofit expert Lynn Raynault explains why.

“I think it’s less about giving less in 2018 (because 2018 was still well above other years), and more about the fact that 2017 was an anomaly year,” Raynault speculated.

But there’s another key factor to keep in mind: All it takes is one or two donors to tip the scale in either direction. Consider the fact that Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, for example, were responsible for half of the money donated by the top 50 billionaires in 2017.

“The impact that these mega-donors can have year over year is just tremendous,” Raynault explained.

And yet, Bill and his wife Melinda only gave $150 million to charity in 2018 compared to $4.8 billion in 2017. The reason, Raynault theorizes, is because billionaires often focus on a specific cause, and related opportunities can vary from year to year.

“Nearly two-thirds of billionaires are self-made, thus they tend to base their philanthropy on issues relevant to their own principles of success,” Raynault articulated. “For example, in 2018, there were a number of tech billionaires supporting efforts around artificial intelligence and its use in accelerating efforts such as ending hunger, aiding global health care issues, or education.”

As for Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, their noticeable decline in charitable giving can be explained by the political scandals that rocked Facebook last year. According to Fox Business, Zuckerberg’s net worth took a big hit last year. As a result, the couple only donated $200 million in 2018 compared to $2 billion in 2017.

“That’s still a relatively hefty sum and is actually in line with what they’ve given in prior years,” Raynault maintained.

*Photo credit: Oleg Golovnev / Shutterstock