Charitable Gifts Get Bigger as Wall Street's Profits Soar

Philanthropy--once the province of "old money," or those who inherited their wealth--is increasingly being led by self-made millionaires and billionaires, according to CNBC's Mary Thompson.

And the size of gifts is getting bigger as Wall Street’s profits rise.

“It used to be that $10 million was considered a big gift,” says Stacy Palmer, editor of Chronicle of Philanthropy. “These days, you have to give at least $100 million to get noticed.”

Last year’s major donors included investor Warren Buffett, $43.56 billion; David Rockefeller, former chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank, $252 million; Robert Wilson, retired hedge fund manager, $147 million; Dan L. Duncan, founder of Enterprise Products, $115 million; and Nike Chairman Phil Knight, $105 million.

Thompson says many hedge fund managers are active in the field, but most are reluctant to attach their name to their gifts.

In the latest example of big donations, Weill Cornell Medical College announced on Wednesday that Sandy Weill, former Citigroup chairman and CEO, and his wife, Joan, had donated $250 million. An anonymous donor kicked in another $100 million; Maurice “Hank” Greenberg added $25 million and the Starr Foundation, which Greenberg oversees, added another $25 million to the gift.

Weill says the money will be used to construct a new research facility in New York and recruit 100 scientists who will focus on diabetes, obesity, cancer, and problems of aging such as Alzheimer’s disease.

“It ties together what we’re doing here in New York with the medical school (to) the basic research at Cornell University in Ithaca so we can bring the discoveries from the bench to the bedside much faster,” Weill told CNBC.