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Biggest donors – Slate ranks top philanthropists

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Bill and Melinda Gates, Netscape founder James Clark and Warren  Buffett crown Slate.com’s annual list of the top 60 U.S. philanthropists.

Bill and Melinda Gates topped the list with gifts totaling $2.4 billion in 1999.

Major gifts include $1 billion to the United Negro College Fund and $750 million to the Seattle-based Global Fund for Children’s Vaccines.

James Clark, founder of Netscape and Silicon Graphics, ranked second with a $150 million gift to Stanford University to build a biomedical-engineering center.

Clark said his gift — the largest ever received by Stanford — shows gratitude for the school’s support of his research when he was a professor there in the 1980’s.

Warren and Susan Buffet’s $134 million stock gift to four unnamed organizations won them third-place ranking on Slate.com’s list.  The Buffets have declined all interview requests about the gift.

The next ranking was a tie between software company CEO Kenan Sahin, who made an unrestricted gift of $100 million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Ted Turner, whose annual gift of $100 million to the United Nations Foundation is part of his 10-year commitment to fund the organization.

Five philanthropists weighed in with gifts of $50 million each, and the last 15 contributors on the list are tied with gifts of $15 million each. 

Slate.com’s annual ranking of top philanthropists was inspired by Ted Turner, who suggested listing givers in the style of the Forbes magazine list of the 400 wealthiest Americans.

Turner claimed that America’s new super-rich were reluctant to give to charity because it would reduce their net worth and hurt their chances of being ranked on the Forbes-400 list.

A list to honor the generous and shame the stingy would correct this problem, he said.

Slate.com will follow its report of top givers with a weighted list of America’s most ineffective and self-serving givers.

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