In a recent post, we highlighted the latest Forbes 400 richest Americans list. For the second year in a row, Forbes ranked each individual with a “Philanthropy Score.” The score is based on the entrant’s lifetime giving, and is assessed along a scale of one to five, with five being the most philanthropic.
In deciding on a total score, Forbes assessed the percentage of total wealth given away, the number and total dollar amount of donations pledged, how personally each individual is involved in charitable giving, how quickly and effectively their foundations distribute donations, and whether or not they’ve signed the Giving Pledge. Of course, there are several unknowns here, such as how Forbes weights each variable and how effectively they sourced the information. Much giving is done anonymously, so it’s always possible that a low philanthropy ranking could be mistaken. Also, the Forbes 400 list doesn’t offer a complete look at the giving of U.S. billionaires, since it takes $2.1 billion just to make it into this year’s list—which means many billionaires aren’t ranked.
That said, the Forbes data is interesting because it allows us to compare and contrast the giving of America’s wealthiest individuals. One group worth examining is the list’s 13 billionaires under the age of 40, to see who is shaping up to be a major force in the philanthropic world, and who—for one reason or another—has yet to emerge as a major giver.
Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz
The Facebook founders, both age 35, are the only under-40 billionaires to receive a Forbes philanthropy score of five. And those fives are well-deserved. We've written extensively about both Zuckerberg and Moskovitz, who have each made a significant impact on the world of philanthropy in their own unique ways.
With a net worth of $67 billion, Zuckerberg is by far the wealthiest under-40-year-old in the country (or anywhere, for that matter). In 2015, along with Priscilla Chan, Zuckerberg launched the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI). The pair also announced plans to give away 99 percent of their wealth. Somewhat controversially, CZI was set up as an LLC, which reflects the couple’s desire to use multiple strategies to drive impact—including not just traditional grantmaking, but also impact investments and 501(c)(4) donations to electoral causes.
CZI has already given away over $250 million, and now has over 400 people on staff, many of whom are working to develop new tech tools to advance the organization’s mission. It supports biomedical research, housing development, education, criminal justice reform, and immigration issues. In September 2016, Chan and Zuckerberg pledged to spend $3 billion over the next decade on an initiative aimed at “helping cure, prevent or manage all diseases in our children’s lifetime.” The couple had already made a $75 million grant to San Francisco General Hospital, as well as a $25 million donation to combat the Ebola epidemic.
With a net worth of just over $11 billion, Moskovitz is far less wealthy than his Facebook counterpart, but no less active a philanthropist. He and wife Cari Tuna do most of their giving through the Open Philanthropy Project, originally established as a partnership between Moskovitz and Tuna’s foundation Good Ventures and the charity evaluator GiveWell. As we’ve reported, Open Philanthropy is guided by the ideas of effective altruism and supports work in several areas, including global health, criminal justice reform, and the welfare of farm animals. One of its largest grantees is Give Directly, which makes direct cash gifts to poor families in developing countries. OPP has also given millions for research on artificial intelligence and biosecurity. The organization has distinguished itself for its unmatched transparency in sharing the rationales for its grantmaking.
With a broad range of interests, deep pockets, and a willingness to test-drive new approaches to giving, both Zuckerberg and Moskovitz are clearly deserving of their high philanthropy scores, despite being only 35 years old.
Sean Parker is another Facebook alum ranked highly by Forbes for his generosity, with a score of four. At 39, Parker has already made an impact in the philanthropic sphere.
In 2015, Parker and wife Alexandra launched the Parker Foundation with a $600 million gift. The foundation’s main focus is health. Parker allocated $250 million to form the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, and convinced six of the most prestigious cancer hospitals to pool their resources and share their intellectual property (cancer centers are notoriously siloed). Parker also gave $24 million to establish the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research at Stanford (he has a severe peanut allergy). In addition, he has made gifts to support a range of causes and organizations, including the Economic Innovation Group, a Washington, D.C., think tank that was the architect of the Opportunity Zone program created by the 2017 tax law.
As the founder of Napster and then first president of Facebook, Parker made his billions with a hacker’s mindset, and he famously—and somewhat controversially—brought that same mindset to the world of philanthropy. He decried legacy foundations, likened the way grantmakers function to “poorly operated venture funds,” and said the Giving Pledge “doesn’t go far enough.”
Clearly, Parker is keen to bring the spirit of disruption to philanthropy. That, and the $2.7 billion in his bank account, make him a formidable force in the philanthropic world.
Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk
The three co-founders of Airbnb each signed the Giving Pledge in 2016. Yet despite this commitment to give away the majority of their fortunes during their lifetimes, the trio received a philanthropy score of two on the Forbes list. That is likely due to the fact that they plan to move slowly and thoughtfully as they give away their billions. As Chesky said, “how we want to give is something we want to be careful about. It’s a huge responsibility. You want to make sure you’ve thought it through.”
The majority of their wealth is locked up in Airbnb shares, and the company has yet to go public, so don’t expect any major gifts in the near future. Gebbia has donated $300,000 to his alma mater, RISD, to establish a $50,000 term scholarship and an endowed fund. And in his Giving Pledge letter, he wrote that his "philanthropic contributions will aim to build pathways for future creatives and entrepreneurs, no matter their age, gender or location, to achieve their dreams." So that provides some insight into Gebbia’s perspective, at least at this early stage of his philanthropic career.
At 36, Blecharczyk is two years younger than his fellow co-founders. He also tends to shy away from the spotlight, though he wrote in his Giving Pledge letter that his interests are "education, scientific research, medicine, space exploration, conservation of the planet and more effective governance." Blecharczyk has yet to establish a foundation, and along with his Airbnb partners, he is likely focused on the company’s IPO, which is scheduled for 2020. We may have to wait quite a while before we find out what this trio has planned for their philanthropic endeavors.
Have you heard of Scott Duncan? Likely not. Along with his three sisters, Duncan inherited over $3 billion when his father, Dan Duncan, passed away. The elder Duncan founded the energy pipeline company Enterprise Products, and was an active philanthropist, having donated $75 million to Texas Children’s Hospital and the Houston Museum of Natural Science, as well as $135 million to Baylor College of Medicine.
It just so happens Dan Duncan passed away in 2010, the one year that the estate tax was fully abolished (it was reinstated in 2011). So all four Duncans inherited their billions without paying a penny to Uncle Sam.
Forbes gave the four siblings—each now worth an estimated $6.2 billion—a philanthropy score of two.
At only 36, Scott Duncan is by far the youngest of the four siblings. Along with his sisters, he is a director of the Dan Duncan Family Foundation, which reported nearly a half-billion dollars in assets at the end of 2017 and gave away around $21 million that year. The largest grant was nearly $11 million to the Greater Houston Community Foundation. The University of Texas, Houston Museum of Natural Science, and many other local organizations have also been beneficiaries of Duncan largesse.
Scott Duncan is still young, and certainly he and his siblings could do more giving—but isn’t that true of most billionaires? We’ll have to wait and see if this Houston native decides to become a more prominent giver as time goes by.
The grandson of Sam Walton is worth an estimated $18.1 billion. At only 33, he’s become an important figure in the Walton Family Foundation, serving as one of five board members who guide a grantmaker that has given away over $2.5 billion through the end of last year. The foundation made nearly $600 million in grants in 2018 alone, including $90 million to environmental causes—which is Lukas Walton’s main interest. He chairs the foundation board’s environment program committee and has a bachelor’s degree in environmentally sustainable business from Colorado College.
We’ve written before that the Walton Family Foundation has quietly become one of the biggest environmental grantmakers in the United States. Its giving has included $200 million in grants to Conservation International over the past decade. The foundation has also been the No. 1 backer of work to protect the Colorado River.
Beyond his role in guiding Walton environmental giving, Lukas also has the ability to direct philanthropic gifts to his favored causes through the foundation’s special projects program. As we’ve reported, a growing share of Walton giving moves through this pathway—$238 million last year—allowing individual family members to give outside of the foundation’s formal program areas. But while the foundation provides a full list of these grants, it doesn’t reveal which family members directed which gifts.
Forbes gave Lukas Walton a philanthropy score of two. That score makes sense, given how little of his vast personal wealth he’s parted with, but it doesn’t convey Walton’s strong involvement in philanthropy or his dedication to environmental causes.
Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy
Snap Inc. went public in 2017, and Spiegel and Murphy likely have strong reasons for keeping their wealth tied up in their shares and delaying major giving until later. Yet that hasn’t stopped the pair from planting a footprint on the philanthropic landscape. They formed the Snap Foundation, and committed 13 million class A shares over the coming 15 to 20 years, which could end up totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. The Snap Foundation’s mission is “to develop pathways to the creative economy for underrepresented youth in Los Angeles.” The foundation has yet to make any grants, however, which is perhaps why the two founders aren’t ranked higher by Forbes.
Given the pair’s commitment to the Snap Foundation, we expect their scores to rise in future incarnations of the Forbes list.
Ernest Garcia III
Garcia’s father, Ernest Garcia II, is a self-made billionaire who founded DriveTime Automotive. Ernest III founded online used car retailer Carvana, which was spun out of DriveTime and went public in 2017.
At 37 years old, Garcia lives in Arizona, but based his company in Tampa, Florida. Likewise, the Garcia Family Foundation has outlets in both locations. The foundation has made grants in the areas of health, human services and education, including to the University of Arizona and the American Enterprise Institute. According to the Foundation Center, the Garcia Family Foundation has made a total of over $2 million in grants through 2017, with no major seven- or eight-figure grants listed.
Perhaps that is why Garcia received an N/A for his score. It’s possible Forbes couldn’t confirm enough details to score Garcia. Interestingly, the 62-year-old Garcia II received a one. Both Garcias are worth a combined $8 billion, according to Forbes.
In 2017, on Lynsi Snyder’s 35th birthday, she became the sole owner of In-N-Out Burger. Having already been listed as America’s youngest female billionaire since 2012, when she inherited 50 percent of the company, Snyder is the only under-40 woman on the Forbes list.
Snyder is notoriously reclusive and earned a philanthropy score of one from Forbes. It’s worth noting that in 2014, Snyder said that her penchant for privacy stems from two failed kidnapping attempts. She has a limited philanthropic resume, having funded Healing Hearts & Nations, a nonprofit that builds training centers in Africa and India to train counselors for underprivileged populations. The In-N-Out Burger Foundation, with which Snyder is actively involved, supports abused and neglected children.
What little we do know about Snyder is that she is deeply religious. In 2013, along with then-husband Sean, she founded the Army of Love Foundation, which “looks to act as an outstretched arm of the body of Christ to embrace people in need of direction, encouragement, prayer, discipleship, healing, training and freedom.” Although light on details, it seems the foundation trains recruiters who serve the wider faith-based community.
In-N-Out is a private company, and Snyder is a very private person. So it’s entirely possible she is deserving of a higher score than one. Regardless, her youth and the fact that she is the sole owner of one of the most popular fast food chains in the country make her someone to keep an eye on as the years go by.
Julio Mario Santo Domingo, III
The grandson of a billionaire beer and liquor magnate, Julio Mario Santo Domingo III is 34 years old and worth an estimated $2.1 billion. Julio III graduated from Boston University with a degree in architecture, and tours the globe as a DJ with the group Sheik ‘N’ Beik.
It’s unclear how much of his fortune is tied up in the Santo Domingo Group, and how much he personally controls. That said, given his philanthropy score of one from Forbes, at the very least, we can say that Julio III doesn’t do a whole lot of public giving. Julio’s uncle Alejandro also received a one from Forbes, despite being active around the issues of conservation and entrepreneurship in emerging markets, and involvement in the Santo Domingo Foundation, which supports impoverished citizens in the family’s native Columbia.
So it’s tough to say how Forbes calculates their rankings, here. On the face of it, it seems Alejandro deserves a higher score. We can’t say much about Julio III, however, since his public philanthropic resume appears to be nonexistent.
Forbes doesn’t provide a philanthropy score for the many U.S. billionaires who don’t rank among the richest 400 Americans. But a few other young billionaires are worth spotlighting.
Brian Armstrong, 36, made his fortune as the co-founder of Coinbase, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the U.S. As we recently reported, Armstrong signed the Giving Pledge, becoming the first crypto billionaire to pledge to give away the majority of his wealth. While his personal philanthropy is still taking shape, he’s been involved with Tipping Point Community, an anti-poverty outfit in the Bay Area, and last June, launched GiveCrypto, whose mission is financially empowering people by distributing cryptocurrency globally.
At 22, Kylie Jenner is the youngest billionaire in the U.S.—and the world. While she doesn’t yet have a record of large-scale giving, she’s been involved in charitable causes, including Habitat for Humanity and Smile Train.
Several other U.S. billionaires under 40, including Ben Silbermann of Pinterest and another tech winner, Chris Wanstrath, have yet to engage in notable philanthropy.