Mea­sur­ing Gen­eros­ity: Our New Phi­lan­thropy Score

Forbes - - FORBES 400 -

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.

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