No. 17: William A. and Karen Ackman

By Caroline Preston (The Chronicle of Philanthropy) – Mr. Ackman, 44, and his wife, Karen, gave $58-million to the Pershing Square Foundation in 2010, which they created in 2006 to support education, human rights, social entrepreneurship, and other causes. They contributed an additional $1.3-million to 50 other nonprofits.

Amount donated in 2010: $59.3-million

Biggest beneficiary: Pershing Square Foundation

Donors’ background: Mr. Ackman founded Pershing Square Capital Management, a hedge fund in New York; Ms. Ackman is a landscape architect.

In September the Pershing Square Foundation announced its largest pledge to date: $25-million to help improve the public-school system in Newark, N.J. Mr. Ackman has known the city’s mayor, Cory Booker, for years and has supported other city-improvement efforts such as cleaning up its parks. When Mr. Booker was seeking additional donors to match a $100-million pledge the Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg was making to Newark’s school system, the Ackmans’ foundation came forward with the biggest commitment yet, next to Mr. Zuckerberg’s.

Also last year, the foundation pledged $5-million to the One Acre Fund, which fights hunger by helping African farmers grow and sell more crops. Other grantees include Echoing Green Foundation, in New York, Digital Divide Data, in New York, and the Global Health Delivery Project, an effort by Harvard University, Partners in Health, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital to improve how global-health projects are run. Along with his role as a trustee of the Pershing Square Foundation, Mr. Ackman serves on the boards of Boys and Girls Harbor, the Center for Jewish History, and Park Avenue Armory, all of which are in New York. Ms. Ackman is a board member of the couple’s foundation and two other New York nonprofits: Human Rights Watch and Friends of the High Line.

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