Although I was only 8 years old, I vividly remember my mother's reprimand. I thought my report card—with an unbroken string of E's for excellent—was cause for great praise. Instead, she focused immediately on the postscript about behavior: "Patty often finishes her work early and distracts the other children." To her, that was simply unacceptable. I should be helping—not hindering—my fellow second-graders. Nothing less would be rewarded.
The philanthropists who appear on the Slate 60 understand, at least in part, what my mother was saying. This year proved their generosity. Because of the massive losses that even the wealthy suffered in 2008 and early 2009, few would blame them for taking a year off. Giving USA 2009 found that giving in 2008 fell by the largest percentage in five decades. But donors on the 2009 Slate 60 came through with $4.2 billion in new commitments (pledges and gifts) to philanthropy.
To read more and see charts, go to http://www.slate.com/id/2243495/