News & Politics

Where Do VIPs Give?

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Washington has its share of well-known philanthropists—individuals such as Catherine Reynolds and Robert Kogod whose multimillion-dollar gifts have made news.

But the giving habits of most boldface names in Washington are a mystery. To shed light on their philanthropy, we pulled the most recent tax records of family foundations set up by some of the area elite.

Judging by these snapshots of their philanthropy (they may give through other means), these VIPs are like most Americans: They give chiefly to where they have a personal connection—a church or synagogue, an alma mater, the kids’ school, a hospital that’s treated family. Some ignore the Washington area in their giving, but others make big gifts to local groups.

Dan and Tanya Snyder (2004 through 2006 giving: $1.2 million).The biggest gifts of the Redskins owner and his wife totaled $300,000 and went to Youth for Tomorrow, a residential program for troubled boys. The program was founded by Joe Gibbs, Snyder’s head coach at the time.

After their first daughter was born premature and spent months in the hospital, the Snyders gave more than $200,000 to Children’s National Medical Center—this after paying for an emergency wing.

Lerner family (2004 through 2006 giving: $6 million). George Washington University—alma mater of Nats owners Ted, son Mark, and daughter Marla—got the biggest check each year: $500,000. Ohr Kodesh Congregation, the family’s synagogue in Chevy Chase, received $757,000 over the three years. Other big local gifts: Jewish Federation of Greater Washington ($321,000), Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School ($315,000), and Hebrew Academy of Greater Washington ($175,000).

Bob Woodward and Elsa Walsh (2004 through 2006 giving: $193,000). Nearly two-thirds of the giving by the two journalists went to Sidwell Friends School, the private school where one daughter’s enrolled and the other graduated in the 1990s. The second-biggest recipient was the University of Virginia’s Miller Center on Public Affairs ($20,000), where Woodward is on the governing council.

Ted and Grace Koppel (2004 through 2006 giving: $1.3 million).Roughly two-thirds of the donations by the former Nightline anchor and his wife went to local groups, including many social-service organizations. So Others Might Eat received $75,000 each year.

Nancy and Paul Pelosi (2005 through 2007 giving: $565,000). The Speaker of the House and her financier husband give almost exclusively to causes in their hometown, San Francisco. Locally, their loyalties lie with their college alma maters: Georgetown (Paul) got $263,000, and Trinity (Nancy) got $20,000.

Mark Warner and Lisa Collis (2005 through 2007 giving: $2.2 million). The soon-to-be US senator and his wife spread their wealth locally: All but four gifts totaling $30,000 went to organizations in Virginia or the Washington area. The biggest recipient: their hometown community foundation, Alexandria Community Trust, which received $650,000.

Elizabeth Dole (2005 through 2007 giving: $157,000). Although the newly defeated North Carolina senator and husband Bob have lived in Washington for decades, she earmarked only $15,000 to a locally focused organization—McLean Bible Church, which she attends. Most of her giving goes to groups in North Carolina.

Jacqueline, John, and Forrest Mars (2004 through 2006 giving: $2.4 million). The candy-making magnates make their gifts mostly in chunks of $5,000 and $10,000. They support dozens of local arts, social-service, and health groups, including $30,000 each to the Black Student Fund, Capital Area Food Bank, and Howard University Hospital. The big winner: Virginia’s Piedmont Environmental Council, known for antisprawl efforts and for helping defeat plans for a Disney theme park in Prince William County. The Marses cut three $100,000 checks to the group—their only six-figure gifts locally.

Jim Kimsey (2004 through 2006 giving: $4.7 million). The AOL founder, who grew up in a poor Catholic family in South Arlington, makes the bulk of his giving to area groups. Highlights include $250,000 to Georgetown University (where he went on scholarship for a year), $55,000 to Gonzaga (where he went on scholarship before being dismissed), and $450,000 to St. Matthew’s Cathedral in DC—part of a $1-million pledge. His generosity to the arts is well known—$1.5 million to the Kennedy Center and $250,000 to the Washington National Opera, among others—but he also gives frequently to local schools and school-reform groups.

Steve and Jean Case (2004 through 2006 giving: $18.7 million). Case, Kimsey’s former AOL sidekick, and his wife write some of their biggest checks to support African development—an interest reportedly sparked by the Clinton Global Initiative. They’re also big backers of groups in Hawaii, where Case is from, and community-service programs—America’s Promise ($870,000), founded by former AOL board member Colin Powell, and Washington’s chapter of City Year ($1.3 million).

>>Want more ways to do good? Check out our full charity package