Measuring Generosity: Our New Philanthropy Score
For the first time, Forbes 400 members are ranked not just on their total wealth and on how self-made they are but also on their generosity. Members of this elite club have been scored on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most philanthropic.
To come up with the scores, we first estimated each list member’s total lifetime giving. A team of 32 Forbes journalists delved into public filings, from tax forms for private foundations to press releases, and reached out to 400 members and nonprofits as well. Next we looked at what percent of their fortune they had given away. We weighted these two factors equally and scored people accordingly. Some individuals were then bumped up or down based on several other factors, including whether they had signed the Giving Pledge, how personally involved they were in their charitable giving and how quickly their private foundations distributed dollars. We also used some lifetime-giving information from Boca Raton-based firm SHOOK Research. We don’t count pledges or announced gifts that have yet to be paid out. Some billionaires worked with Forbes; others refused to cooperate, citing privacy concerns and/or religious beliefs. List members about whom we could find no charitable giving information received an N.A. (not available). Some of our lifetimegiving estimates may be low because of a lack of transparency.
The spirit of the project harks back to an anecdote top philanthropist Bill Gates shared at The Forbes 400 Summit on Philanthropy in 2014. “One of the [Middle Eastern magnates] mentioned that in the Qur’an, it actually says the reason to talk about your philanthropy is [that] it encourages other people to do the same,” he said. “In that case, you have an obligation to talk about your philanthropy.” We agree, and hope to start a conversation about the nation’s richest and their commitment to the public good.