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The Philanthropic Top 5: Most Generous Givers Of Charity

From private foundations and corporations to distinguishing the great givers from the merely wealthy and generous.philanthropic generosity

Businesses, Individuals Don't Let Economy Stop Charity

With the economy struggling as it is, you'd think that U.S. businesses and individuals would shut off their charitable donations. But you'd be wrong. Fortunately.

Consider this number: 89 percent of U.S. households give money to charity every year. The average annual contribution from these households stands at $1,620. All those $1,600 donations add up to a significant amount of charitable giving throughout the year.

Businesses are also doing their share to help the rest of the world. Bank of America, which has gotten its share of bad press for the bad mortgage loans it passed out during the housing boom - which eventually helped lead to the housing crash - actually ranks as the top corporate grantmaker in the world. The Bank of America Charitable Foundation gives out about $170 million in annual charitable grants

Following closely behind is the Sanofi-Aventis Patient Assistance Fund, which gives out about $150 million in charitable grants. Rounding out the top five are the Wal-Mart Foundation, with about $110 million; the Wachovia Foundation, with about $100 million; and the Citi Foundation, also with about $100 million.

In 2007, in fact, it was estimated that all grantmaking organizations gave out $42.9 billion in assistance. Looking at Haiti alone, the amount of donations is rather staggering: The earthquake-plagued country has received more than $10 million in aid through texting alone. In all, donors have given more than $644 million in relief to Haiti.

Of course, when it comes to charitable giving, certain private foundations outstrip everybody. To no one's surprise, the size of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation towers above the rest. The foundation, created by the brain behind Microsoft, is worth nearly $40 billion.

Interestingly enough, financial guru Warren Buffet is a big reason why the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is so strong: Buffet has donated $30 billion to the foundation over his lifetime. For a bit of perspective, that amount of money is more than the Gross Domestic Product of the entire country of Uzbekistan.

Coming in next are three foundations each worth about $10 billion: The Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Rounding out the top five is the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which is worth about $8 billion.

It's true that the recession has curtailed the charitable activities of some U.S. households and businesses. After all, there just isn't as much money to go around these days. But there are still plenty of generous businesses and individuals in the United States and around the world. That's good news during a time in which many of us desperately need some help.

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