The super-rich opened their wallets wider last year, when the number of $1 million-plus donations nationwide nearly doubled over 2010.
Gifts of $1 million and more to nonprofits jumped from $3.6 billion in 2010 to $5.4 billion last year, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, which compiled the data.
In another sign that mega-philanthropy is recovering from the economic downturn, the chronicle found that the number of people making donations of more than $100 million also rose. Philanthropists in that rarefied world climbed from six in 2010 to 10 in 2011.
The year's biggest winner? The new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, founded by Alice Walton, daughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton and one of the world's richest women. It received an $800 million endowment from -- no surprise -- the Walton Family Foundation.
The museum of American art, which opened in November, is near Wal-Mart's home in Bentonville, Ark.
The second-largest donation, $350 million, went to Cornell University in New York to build a technology campus. The donor was Charles Feeney, co-founder of the Duty Free Shoppers Group.
A $265 million pledge to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh took third place. It was made by William Dietrich, then chairman of Dietrich Industries, who died a month after making the donation.
Museums and universities were the lucky recipients of the 10 biggest blockbuster gifts. The exception was the Mayo Clinic, which received a $100 million pledge from longtime Mayo patient and philanthropist Richard Jacobson, founder of Des Moines-based Jacobson Companies.
Jacobson donated $100 million to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester to establish innovative cancer-fighting centers there and in Phoenix.
To see the list of $1 million donations and more, go to philanthropy.com/stats/topdonors.
Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511