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Among the technorati, Gordon E. Moore's name is legend. The Intel Corp. () co-founder is the man behind one of the guiding principles of the tech industry -- Moore's Law -- which predicted, back in 1965, that the number of transistors that could fit onto a computer chip would double every 12 months (later revised to 24 months). As you'd imagine, his finances followed their own sort of Moore's Law, and the 76-year-old Californian's net worth is now $4.6 billion.
Forty years after Moore's famous equation, he and his wife are fast becoming legends in the field of philanthropy. In 2000, Moore donated half of his Intel stake to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation -- worth about $5 billion -- to fund mostly environment-related projects. And in 2005 the Moores achieved the unthinkable: They unseated Bill and Melinda Gates from their usual No. 1 perch on BusinessWeek's fourth annual list of the 50 Most Generous Philanthropists. (The Gateses, however, have given more over time.)
The Moores, like a growing number of big givers, take a businesslike approach to philanthropy. Rather than throwing money at problems, they try to ensure the most productive use of their dollars by funding projects they believe can produce "significant and measurable" results. This desire for accountability is one of the most important themes in this year's top 50 individual donors list. "We're beginning to see a much sharper focus on funding the solution, not the problem," notes Melissa Berman, CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. "Funding the problem is when people say, 'public education is a major problem, I have to do something, so I'll give money.' Funding the solution is talking to a lot of people, thinking it through, and deciding that small schools are the answer, or training great leaders to enter the public school system is the solution."
THE WEIGHT OF MEASURES
A stronger focus on results is also found among corporate givers. For more on the 200-plus companies that responded to our survey this year, visit our new interactive database for details on corporate giving programs (www.businessweek.com/go/philanthropy). And for a closer look at one person's controversial brand of philanthropy, take a look at our profile of billionaire John Marks Templeton, a man who is trying to reconcile science and religion (and is certainly not expecting any immediate measurable results). Templeton vaulted onto the list with a $550 million gift -- the most dramatic move by any individual donor.
While Templeton has spiritual aims, the Moore Foundation is firmly rooted in the temporal world. "We feel fairly strongly that you have to measure if you're getting results or not, and that hasn't always been done rigorously in the foundation world," says Moore. To make sure the focus on results stays strong, Moore's son Kenneth, a semiconductor industry vet, is director of evaluation and information technology, in charge of measuring the effects of grants.
For a sense of how the foundation measures impact, look at how it tracks a 10-year, $145 million initiative to study the role of microorganisms in the ocean. They'll monitor the number of new organisms and genes discovered and the amount of new knowledge emerging about the functions of the microorganisms in journal articles and journal citations, which show if the research is useful to other scientists. Also, they'll track the number of multidisciplinary centers created and technology developed to further this kind of study.
Eli Broad, founder of SunAmerica and KB Home () (and No. 5 on our list), is integrating business thinking into the world of giving in a different way. One program he and his wife fund takes top MBA students with a few years of experience and trains them for senior management positions in urban school systems. Another trains retired high-level military personnel, execs looking for second careers, and career educators to be school superintendents. Some 43% of the 63 graduates of Broad Superintendents Academy have been hired as superintendents or other high-level school positions, or been promoted into the jobs.
In the arts world, givers also worked to ensure that their gifts had impact. Robert and Marguerite Hoffman collaborated with other local collecting couples in designing their $170 million irrevocable bequest. The Hoffmans' collection, which includes works by Jasper Johns and Joseph Cornell, will go to the Dallas Museum of Art. Other big arts donors included David Rockefeller, grandson of Standard Oil Company founder John D. Rockefeller, who donated $100 million to the Museum of Modern Art, and W. Jerome Frautschi, the former Web-crafters vice-chairman, who gave $205 million for a new arts center in downtown Madison, Wis.
Another notable trend is that more givers turned to the big screen to spread their message. Founding eBay President Jeff Skoll helped fund three star-studded social-issue films (BW -- Nov. 7). Ted Turner and Warren E. Buffett supported the nonprofit group Nuclear Threat Initiative, which produced Last Best Chance, a docudrama about nuclear terrorism.
By Suzanne Woolley, with Jessi Hempel and Bremen Leak in New York