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Causes

Mark Zuckerberg and wife top philanthropists of 2013

Mark Zuckerberg, 29, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, were the most generous philanthropists of 2013, giving other, older donors a run for their money.

The young couple donated 18 million shares of Facebook stock, valued at $970 million, to a Silicon Valley nonprofit group in December, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The generous gift was the largest charitable donation on public record for last year.

The top 50 contributors made donations last year totaling $7.7 billion, plus pledges of $2.9 billion.

The Chronicle’s editor says the most significant fact from the list was the amount of money coming from living donors, which totaled about the same amount as the two previous years combined.

‘‘It’s a sure sign that the economy is getting better and people are getting a lot less cautious,’’ said Stacy Palmer, Chronicle editor.

Some of the usual suspects were missing from the top of the list, not because they failed to give, but because their donations were counted as pledges in previous years. Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, for example, gave their own foundation $181.3 million last year, but they were paying off a hefty pledge of $3.3 billion they made in 2004, according to the Boston Globe. Likewise, Warren Buffet is paying toward previous pledges.

Of the top 50, 10 made the list because of bequests upon their deaths, including number two on the list, George Mitchel of Galveston, Texas, who made a fortune in energy and real estate.

Number three was Nike Chairman Philip Knight and his wife Penelope of Portland, Ore., and number four was former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who made gifts totaling $452 million.

Nineteen people or couples on the list have signed the Giving Pledge, started by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in 2010, according to the Globe. More than 120 of the world’s wealthiest individuals and families have pledged to give at least half their wealth to charity since the movement began.