John and Jenny Paulson

NET WORTH: $9.7 billion 

SOURCE OF WEALTH: Paulson & Co., short-selling subprime mortgages

FUNDING AREAS: Education, Maternal Health, Community Development

OVERVIEW: John Paulson launched his family foundation in 2008, but only gave out $8 million in grants in the first three years, despite endowing his foundation with more than $350 million in assets during that time period. Currently, the foundation is worth more than $754 million, and Paulson has slowly begun to distribute that money.

BACKGROUND: Paulson grew up in New York, and graduated from NYU with a degree in finance; he later attended Harvard Business School. He started his career as a consultant at Boston Consulting Group, and later took a position at Bear Stearns before starting his own firm. Most of his money was earned betting against the mortgage-backed securities market in 2007.


EDUCATION: Paulson’s biggest donation in education has gone to Harvard, where he has contributed well over $400 million. He has also given more than $11 million to the Spence School, and $3.7 million to the London School of Economics. The Paulsons recently gave $8.5 million to Success Academy as it opens new middle schools in New York City. Paulson also has another philanthropic vehicle, the J & J Independent Foundation, through which he has supported New Visions for Public Schools.

HEALTH: Paulson’s major contributions so far have been $15 million to build a maternity hospital in Ecuador, where his father was born, and $5 million to Southampton Hospital. 

ARTS & CULTURE:  In 2012, Paulson announced a $100 million gift to New York’s Central Park Conservancy, the largest amount he has given to any institution to date, saying the park where he bikes and jogs almost every day is “fundamental to the economic and cultural health of New York City.” He has also made several small contributions, generally in the $10,000-$100,000 range, to a number of museums and to various Jewish cultural groups in the city.

COMMUNITY: Paulson has given to several community organizations in New York City such as the Boy Scouts, Harlem Children’s Zone, the 92nd Street YMCA, and the Robin Hood Foundation. Many of these organizations combat poverty. He also funds organizations that support programs for the elderly in New York and in Florida.

LOOKING FORWARD: Paulson is still relatively new to major philanthropy, and runs a bit behind other billionaires who have made their fortunes over the last decade.  His gift to the Central Park Conservancy may signal that he is ready to start making larger contributions, but it is still hard to tell what causes he may choose to support. From what we know so far, he will probably lean more toward giving grants to health, education, and religious organizations rather than running programs through his foundation.