Stars of ‘Nerd Philanthropy’ Dominate Top 50 Givers

Stars of ‘Nerd Philanthropy’ Dominate Top 50 Givers

In total, the top 50 donors gave $ 7.4 billion in total gifts this year – with the top five alone accounting for more than $ 4.5 billion. The list is just for new commitments, so it doesn’t include money given by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates as part of their previous charitable commitments. Yet Buffett topped the list with $ 3 billion in new commitments to his children’s charities.

Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, said the rise of young, tech givers signals the emergence “nerd philanthropy,” where newly rich tech geeks channel their giving dollars to science, technology and data solutions to solve the world’s problems, rather than just building hospital wings or writing checks to the Red Cross.

“There this real excitement about what science can do,” she said. “It’s not just a gift to a hospital, but a gift aimed at trying to support research.”

(Read more: Are the Brits Less Charitable Than Americans?)

Nerd philanthropists like to be able to measure the impacts of their giving. They take a lower-profile approach, sometimes refusing to make their charitable projects public. Sergey Brin, for instance, has been tight-lipped about much of his philanthropy – a stark contrast to philanthropists who like their names on plaques and announcements.

Nerd philanthropy also applies to older tech givers of course. Paul Allen’s $ 309 million in giving in 2012 included funding for brain research. And Bill Gates is widely considered to be the father of nerd philanthropy.

But as tech fortunes grow, nerd philanthropy is also expected to rise and possibly influence other givers.

“This shows that the future of philanthropy is strong even given the difficult economy,” Palmer said.

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