Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg topped the list of US philanthropists who opened their cheque books to make big donations in 2013, with his gift of almost $1 billion to a Silicon Valley charity.
Mr Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, his wife, gave 18 million Facebook shares worth about $990 million to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation in December, nearly 30 per cent of the $3.4 billion total given to charity last year.
The gift – to a charity which works to support the neighbourhood where Facebook has its headquarters – marks the first time a philanthropist under the age of 30 has given the largest single donation.
The year also saw a rise in the number of donations of more than $100 million, with 14 US citizens including Michael Bloomberg and David Koch giving at least that sum, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, which compiled the list. This compares with 11 who gave more than $100 million in 2012.
Stacy Palmer, the Chronicle's editor, said the rise in large gifts was a sign of the improvement in the economy and the stock market. She said it made her "optimistic" that 2014 could be a strong year for philanthropy.
"I think this is a good sign. I've noticed a lot of non-profits saying their end of year fundraising has gone well, which was not the case in the past few years when it was a real struggle," she said.
(Read more: The great Google, Facebook and Apple cash pile)
But gifts are not yet back to the level seen before the recession, with a total of $4.1 billion donated in 2007.
Mr Zuckerberg is "remarkably young" for such a large donation, which follows another gift of shares worth $500 million to the same foundation last year, Ms Palmer said.