Meeting of America's Richest About 'Need,' Attendee Says

"Nonprofits are going through a difficult time. The endowments of many foundations have dropped significantly," Palmer said. "Many people are not as able to give as much money as the used to.

"They are making a statement that donors should continue to give. They are likely planning on a sending a message that philanthropy needs to continue worldwide," she said.

Few of the participants, Palmer said, gave money quietly and she anticipated that the secret meeting was the first step in a plan that would eventually be made public.

A number of other people attended the meeting including: Winfrey, worth $2.7 billion, who donated some $50 million in 2007; Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Mayor of New York City, who is worth $11.5 billion and donated $205 million from 2007 to 2008; financier Eli Broad who donated $100 million in 2008; and financier Peter Peterson, who committed $1 billion in 2008.

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