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Charitable Giving by the Super Rich Dipped in 2010

George Soros tops the list of 50 biggest charitable donors in 2010With unemployment climbing and available federal dollars declining in 2010, the need for charitable giving seemed greater than ever, but gifts made during the year were actually down. According to a recent article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, charitable gifts at the top of the spectrum, those from the super rich, decreased in 2010.

The total amount of gifts reported by the country's biggest donors was $3.3 billion. That number, while still huge, represents the smallest total since the The Chronicle started tracking donations at the top.So who made the list? George Soros, chairman of the Soros Fund Management, a New York firm that manages hedge funds, came in at No. 1 for 2010. Soros (right), who was ranked No. 6 last year, donated an astounding $332 million (about 10% of the total gifts at the top) to the New York-based Open Society Foundations. The Open Society Foundations was established by Soros to help countries make the transition from communism to democracy. The foundation now also supports initiatives in education and the arts.

Soros beat out the New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who came in at No. 2 with donations of $279.2 million to 970 charities that support the arts, human services, public affairs and other areas. Those charities included Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, El Museo del Barrio, Food Bank, Jewish Association for Services for the Aged, all in New York; Loaves and Fishes, in Charlotte, N.C.; Points of Light Foundation, in Atlanta; and the Wounded Warrior Project, in Jacksonville, Fla. More than two-thirds of his total gifts remained with New York organizations. Mayor Bloomberg came in at No. 4 on the 2009 list.

Bill and Melinda Gates did not make the top of the list this year, despite donating $46.4 million. Similarly, Warren E. Buffett, who donated an astounding $1.9 billion, didn't make the list. In 2010, the Gateses and Mr. Buffet paid pledges announced in previous years; The Chronicle's list includes only new pledges and gifts.

The Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge, however, did make its mark in 2010: 10 of the top 50 donors have signed the Giving Pledge. You can see the entire top 50 list here.

There's no doubt that the lack of a federal estate and gift tax for 2010, combined with uncertainty about the federal income tax in 2010, contributed to the slowdown in giving. With the reinstatement of the federal estate tax together with a unified estate and gift tax system, most charitable organizations expect 2011 to be a better year for giving.

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