New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire founder of the Bloomberg financial information empire, donated $235 million to charitable causes in 2008, making him the leading living individual donor in the United States, the New York Times reports.
Bloomberg was one of sixty donors recognized in this year's Slate 60, which is compiled by the Chronicle of Philanthropy and tracks the largest philanthropic gifts announced during the previous year. Bloomberg's designation as "top" giver — he placed number nine on the list — applies to living individuals who have actually written checks and not just made pledges. The late Leona Helmsley, who died in 2007 and left $5.2 billion to a charitable trust, topped the list of all donors.
In 2008, Bloomberg, 66, contributed to more than twelve hundred organizations, most of them working in the areas of the arts, education, and health care. In 2007, he gave to roughly eleven hundred groups, and his total giving of $205 million trailed that of several other wealthy philanthropists, including chemicals magnate Jon M. Huntsman and financier George Soros.
Bloomberg's giving has increased steadily over the past decade, including a doubling of contributions, from $47 million to $100 million, in 2000, when he was getting ready to run for mayor. He has said that he intends to give away most of his fortune, which was estimated to be $20 billion before the credit crisis struck, and has also said that the best measure of a philanthropist is that the check to the undertaker bounces.
"As the economy took a turn from bad to worse, I felt it was the right time — the essential time — for someone like me, someone who's been so fortunate in my own life, to step up and give back even more," Bloomberg said in a statement. "I don't think of it only as a responsibility, but as a privilege."