Mark Zuckerberg, Wife Are Top Philanthropists of 2013

Living donors gave the most since 2008, indicating economic growth.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, walks with his wife, Priscilla Chan, during the 2011 Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, donated 18 million Facebook shares, valued at nearly $1 billion, to a Silicon Valley nonprofit. 

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife were the top philanthropists in the U.S. in 2013, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, which reported America’s wealthy contributed 4 percent more than in 2012 for a total of $7.7 billion, indicating an improvement in the economy. 

The amount given by living donors, as opposed to estates, reached a high in 2013 not seen since 2008, highlighting the booming stock market of last year, the Chronicle reports.

Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, made the largest charity gift of 2013 by donating 18 million shares of Facebook stock, valued at nearly $1 billion, to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The foundation gives grants to nonprofits and serves the Santa Clara and San Mateo counties that make up California’s Silicon Valley area.

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Philanthropists who topped the list in recent years, including Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, did not rank as high on the new list because their donations in 2013 were counted as pledges made in previous years.

Zuckerberg and his wife have followed in the footsteps of another tech-sector power couple, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda Gates. The former Microsoft CEO has dedicated himself to philanthropy in recent years through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has given millions to health-related causes including The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Gates has decreased his role at Microsoft and sold his shares in the company so he can focus increasingly on philanthropy, although he remains on the company's board of directors and will serve as technology adviser to the company’s new CEO, Satya Nadella.

Zuckerberg has described his politics as “pro-knowledge economy” and has helped coordinate, an initiative with other companies and nonprofits aimed at connecting the estimated 5 billion people around the world who do not have access to the Internet.