Philanthropy Awards, 2014

After a year of writing about all sorts of interesting funders and trends, we thought it would be fun to spotlight the things that have really jumped out at us. So we're thrilled to present our first annual IP Philanthropy Awards, or IPPYs. (Next year we'll present these awards at a black-tie gala.)

If you follow the links below, you can read some of our best articles of the year. 

The IPPYs, 2014

Philanthropist of the Year: Paul Allen

Quite apart from giving $100 million to contain Ebola, Allen charged into cell science with a new research center and took up the battle to save the world's oceans.

Most Effective Philanthropist: Michael Bloomberg

Bloomberg makes such a difference because he focuses big money on low-hanging fruit. His top bets are on curbing deaths from smoking and traffic accidents in poor countrieschallenges we know how to tackle.

Most Powerful Family in U.S. Philanthropy: The Buffetts

While Warren bankrolls the Gates Foundation, his three children collectively move over a half billion dollars annually through four family foundations, each with its own distinctive priorities and strategies. 

Greatest Success of Philanthropy: Saving Obamacare

Without a huge push by funders to sign people up for coverage, the biggest domestic U.S. policy initiative in a generation may have failed. But big checks were written and the ACA worked. Runner-up: Saving Detroit.

Biggest Failure of Philanthropy: Ignoring Syria's refugees

The displacement of millions of Syrians has created one of the worst humanitarian crises in decades, but nearly every major funder has looked the other way, with a few notable exceptions

Boldest Philanthropic Vision: A Culture of Health

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation wants to change not just how Americans live and eat in order to create a healthier society, but also the very values of U.S. culture.  

Foundation CEO With Toughest Job: Darren Walker

Ford's chief spent his first year listening and learning. Now comes the hard part: streamlining a philanthropic operation that is stretched too thin across multiple continents. It won't happen without a fight. 

Brainiest Philanthropic Couple: Jim and Marilyn Simons

He's a math genius turned hedge fund bilionaire. She's a Ph.D. economist. Together, they've built the Simons Foundation into one of the top science funders in the philanthrosphere. 

Best Octopus Wrestler: Christopher Stone

Since taking over the Open Society Foundations, which has branches in some three dozen countries, Stone has been making major headway in professionalizing what was often a chaotic philanthropic empire. 

Most Transparent Large Foundation: Hewlett

It's not just that the foundation started a blog to share how it thinks and operates. It's also that Larry Kramer and other leaders there are ready to openly engage with critics and the media.

Least Transparent Large Foundation: Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation

Can a place really give out around $400 million a year without a real website, grantmaking guidelines, or even a person who answers the phone when the media calls? Yup. Especially if the focus is reproductive rights.

Most Powerful Woman in U.S. Philanthropy Not Named Melinda: Susan Buffett

Buffett commands not just the mega-foundation above, but another family foundation, too. It's hard to know how much these entities gave out this year combined, but it may well be more than Ford's grantmaking. 

Clearest Path to Redemption: Steve Cohen's philanthropy

The hedge fund billionaire and his wife Alexandra gave big long before Cohen's legal problems. But now they're ramping up. How might this shape Cohen's reputation? See Michael Milken.

Least Hypocritical Foundation CEO: Stephen Heintz

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund head saw that you can't make grants to fight climate change while investing in fossil fuel companies. Now he just needs to talk sense to climate funders like McKnight and Hewlett.

Most Hypocritical Corporate Funder: Walmart Foundation

Walmart's pay is so low that thousands of its workers rely on food stamps. Meanwhile, the Walmart Foundation has a big initiative to address hunger. What's wrong with this picture?

Sharpest Laser Focus in Grantmaking: Sea Change Foundation

Its skeletal staff quietly shovels tens of milions of dollars out the door annually to combat climate change. And that's pretty much all it does. 

Top Bombshell Revelation: Businessweek Story on "Mystery Angels"

We were as blown away as everyone else by Zachary Mider's investigative piece unmasking three hedge fund winners, including David Gelbaum, who've channeled $13 billion into philanthropic trusts. 

Biggest Pledge That Needs Rethinking: Buffett's Commitment to Gates 

Warren's money could be spent in more interesting ways by his three children, all of whom are bold and edgy givers. Let Bill and Melinda finance their own foundation with their $80 billion fortune.

Top Funding Trend of the Year: STEM

Corporate funders are leading the way in spending a fortune to bolster the STEM chops of U.S. students at every level. But top legacy foundations are also in deep.

Deepest New STEM Pockets: Energy Companies

Oil and gas firms opened their checkbooks for STEM in a big way in 2014 with an eye on their long-term labor needs. Of course, that may all change now that oil prices have crashed. '

Most Influential Heir, Education: Carrie Walton Penner

She's is an uber ed policy wonk, with a master's from Stanford, and deeply involved in Walton Family Foundation, one of the top U.S. education funders in the U.S.

Most Influential Heir, Environment: Nathaniel Simons

Through the Sea Change Foundation (see above), Simons is tapping a slice of his father's hedge fund fortune to tackle climate change. Sea Change also gives big to coordinate top green groups. 

Most Competent Philanthropist Heir (Male): Dave Peery

The son of a billionaire real estate developer, Peery has turned his family's foundation into a professionalized operation that is keenly attuned to the needs of its grantees. 

Most Competent Philanthropist Heir (Female): Jennifer Rainin

Rainin has been scaling up the Bay Area foundation created by her late father, turning it into a major local player in arts and early education, and a national leader in research on inflammatory bowel disease. 

Most Powerful Heir in Waiting: Emma Bloomberg

When her hands-on father is no longer around, it's likely that Emmaa nonprofit veteran with Harvard master's degrees in both business and policywill call the shots at one of the largest U.S. foundations.

Biggest Missed Opportunity To Make a High-Profile Gift: Piketty and Inequality

Some funder should have written inequality guru Thomas Piketty a $20 million check for a new center to tackle inequality at the height of Piketty-mania. 

Weakest Follow Up to a Hit New York Times Op-Ed: Peter Buffett

Buffett created a major platform for himself after his widely discussed op-ed, and his NoVo Foundation is awash in cash. But he didn't bring those assets together with a big play (say, a mega-grant for Piketty.)

Flimsiest Wall Street Journal Op-Ed: James Piereson's Attack on Big Foundations

The head of the William Simon Foundation blamed liberal funders for the crisis in U.S. democracy by backing big government solutions. But he ignored other more important factors at play. 

Most Overextended Philanthropy Power Couple: Pam and Pierre Omidyar

Pam and Pierre Omidyar clocked in at number two in our list of the "most powerful couples in philanthropy." But we can't imagine how they manage their far-flung philanthropic "archipelago."

Clearest Thinking Corporate Foundation CEO: Michele Sullivan

As the head of Caterpillar's philanthropic arms, Sullivan has reinvented the company's giving to focus on addressing the "root causes" of global poverty and rightly sees empowering girls and women as key. 

Big Foundation Bet Most Likely to Fail: Hewlett's Madison Initiative

If you don't have a plan to moderate the far right, you don't have a plan to reduce polarization. And, anyway, this challenge is too big for even the largest foundation. Still, smart stuff will be funded along the way.

Big Foundation Bet Most Likely to Succeed: Hewlett's Cybersecurity Initiative

Hewlett aims to end government and corporate dominance of the cybersecurity field by building up expertise in think tanks and universities. It's a smart bet that's likely to pay off. 

Most Ironic Critic of Big Philanthropy: Gara LaMarche

LaMarche has spent nearly twenty years helping the super-rich influence America and the world with their wealth. This fall, he wrote a much-discussed article about why such giving poses a threat to democracy. 

Scariest Trend in Philanthropy: The Decline of Government

Much is made of how funders increasingly shape areas like education and science. But the context of this rising private power is the decline of government amid budget cuts, gridlock, and calcification. 

Most Complicated Large Foundation: Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies

This place includes three separate entities, and only about half its assets are available for discretionary grantmaking. We explained its ins and outs in this primer

Philanthropist in the Biggest Hurry: Sam Simon

Since his terminal cancer diagnosis, the wealthy co-creator of The Simpsons has been on a giving spree, with his largest donations aimed at helping animals. 

Toughest New Philanthropy Watchdog: Philamplify

Never mind the tongue-twisting name. This new effort of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy is an ambitious and hard-hitting effort to hold foundations accountable. 

Most Intriguing Philanthropic Couple: Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan.

Even as this couple ramps up their giving in a big way, how this private duo does business remains a mystery. Our guess is that Chan will eventually emerge as a major figure in philanthropic circles. 

Strongest Foe of Conservative Education Funders: George Lucas

Lucas has pledged most of his $5 billion Star Wars fortune to education, but he's not a metric-obsessed, teacher's-union-busting funder. Instead, he's set to be a liberal counterweight to the likes of Walton and Broad. 

Worst Pick to Run a Family Foundation: Simon Greer

How the low-key family behind the Nathan Cummings Foundation got in bed with a big personality like Greer is beyond us. But things didn't work out.

Best Pick for an Interim President: Ernest Tollerson

After years on the NCF board, the no-drama Tollerson is trusted by the Cummings family and, better yet, a deep thinker on NCF's key issues. Are they begging him to stay yet? 

Affinity Group Head With the Most Hustle: Alexandra Toma

Okay, it's not like we've done a rigorous comparison. But we've been impressed with how Toma has pushed big plans for the Peace and Security Funders Group. Most recently, PSFG is hatching a plan to look at "failure."

Stingiest Media Mogul: Rupert Murdoch

Murdoch is worth nearly $14 billion and is in his 80s, but his philanthropy remains negligible. Meanwhile, he just dropped $57 million on a new apartment in New York City. 

Most Compensatory Son of Stingy Media Mogul: James Murdoch

James takes more after his philanthropist grandmother than his father and has recently established a thoughtful foundation. It's good to know that he'll also be partly in charge of dad's vast fortune one day. 

Media Mogul With Best Foundation: Michael Eisner

Since stepping down from Disney, Eisner (with his family) has built a first-class foundation focused on Los Angeles that is a grantseeker's dream in terms of transparency and accessibility.

Touchiest Funder We've Met So Far: Philadelphia Foundation

So far, this is the only foundation that's threatened Inside Philanthropy with legal action (because we couldn't grasp their complicated workings). So we promise: We'll never write a word about this place again. Ever.  

Most Helpful Foundation Communications Officer: Genny Biggs

Genny has gone out of her way to explain to us who's who and what's what at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Happily, there are many runners-up, including Sallie Gaines at Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies. 

Philanthropic Couple with Best Backstory: Steve and Alex Cohen

We can't help mentioning this duo again: She grew up poor in a Puerto Rican family in Washington Heights. He narrowly escaped a federal indictment. They have over $10 billion and are increasing their philanthropy. 

Best Grantmaking Fireworks Display: Atlantic's "Cumulative Grants" 

Atlantic Philanthropies is going out of business with a grand finale, handing out giant grants to key organizations that it thinks can advance its mission when it's gone. 

Best New Philanthropy Media Site: Inside Philanthropy

But, of course we would say that. Meanwhile, we're devoted fans of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Nonprofit Quarterly, and the Stanford Social Innovation Review.


The Most Interesting Foundations, 2014

Philanthropy's Greatest Hits, 2014

Our 10 Most Popular Articles in 2014

David Callahan is Founder and Editor of Inside Philanthropy (