Oprah Becomes 1st African American “Top Philanthropist”

Talk-show host and media mogul Oprah Winfrey has donated over $150 million dollars in pledges and gifts to several charities. This has earned her the No. 40 spot on BusinessWeek’s annual ranking of America’s top donators, and it also distinguishes Oprah as the first African American ever to make the list.

Other billionaires who have appeared on the list before include Warren Buffet (ranked No. 3), Gordon and Betty Moore (No. 2), George Soros (No. 4); Michael and Susan Dell (No. 7); Michael Bloomberg (No. 13); and David Geffen (No. 31).

Amongst the extraordinarily wealthy, no list dealing with money would be complete without mentioning Bill and Melinda Gates, who ranked number one for their philanthropic ventures. In fact they are the world’s leading international donors, making history this year with their unprecedented $3 billion dollar donation to their foundation. This is the single largest donation made by a living donor. According to BusinessWeek, this one donation is three times larger than the amount of money descendants of Sam Walton (of Wal-mart Stores Inc.) have given in their lifetimes.

Of course one doesn’t have to be wealthy to make a difference. BusinessWeek honors lower and middle-income Americans who are “unsung heroes.” Fifty-nine percent of philanthropic contributions are made by families who make $100,000 per year or less, according to a study by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

In order to qualify for placement in the top 50, the philanthropist had to have donated or pledged $116 million dollars within the last five years. BusinessWeek’s sources for ranking come mainly from news reports, foundation filings, and interviews. Resources used include the Forbes 400 Richest Americans, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Prospect Information Network, and nonprofit GuideStar’s online database of IRS foundation filings.