The World’s 20 Most Generous People: Where And How They Give

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Last month, Wealth-X and Business Insider teamed up to produce the Generosity Index, a list of the 20 most generous people in the world, ranked by total charitable giving to date.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates was No. 1 on the list of top philanthropists, with US$27 billion in lifetime donations as of October 2015. The 20 people in the Generosity Index have given a total of US$106.8 billion to a variety of philanthropic causes, ranging from the environment and human rights to sports and entrepreneurship. Wealth-X has identified the leading causes supported by the world’s biggest individual donors:


Education was the most popular cause among the people on the list; 18 out of 20 focused on educational initiatives in their giving, whether operating through their foundations or direct donations. Michael Bloomberg, founder and CEO of Bloomberg, has donated over US$1 billion to his alma mater Johns Hopkins University alone. Hong Kong business magnate Li Ka-shing, with US$1.4 billion in donations to date, has reportedly spent over US$770 million to establish and support Shantou University, the only privately funded public university in China.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made education one of his primary causes; his first act of large-scale philanthropy was donating US$100 million worth of his Facebook shares to the Newark, New Jersey public school system in 2010. Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have given US$120 million to improve schools in the San Francisco Bay Area in California, and this month, they pledged US$20 million to nonprofit EducationSuperHighway to bring speedy Internet to all U.S. schools.

Health & Medicine

Healthcare initiatives were the second most prominent cause among the top philanthropists; 16 out of 20 emphasized health or medicine in their giving. Zuckerberg has donated US$75 million to San Francisco General Hospital and contributed US$25 million to fight Ebola. In 2014, Gates announced that he would donate over US$500 million through his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fight malaria and other infectious diseases in the developing world. Meanwhile, Gates’ Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has spent US$100 million to create the Allen Institute for Cell Science, and he has also pledged US$300 million towards his Allen Institute for Brain Science, a Seattle-based nonprofit medical research organization dedicated to understanding how the human brain works.

This month, retail magnate Charles Francis Feeney — who has donated US$6.3 billion to date, leaving his net worth at just US$1.5 million — pledged US$177 million to University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) and Trinity College Dublin to create the Global Brain Health Institute, aimed at battling the quick rise of dementia.

Social & Humanitarian Services

Of the 20 profiled philanthropists, 11 gave significantly to social and humanitarian initiatives. Feeney’s foundation The Atlantic Philanthropies is “dedicated to bringing about lasting changes in the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable people,” and it has donated more than US$7 billion. Pierre Omidyar, co-founder and current chairman of eBay, started the Omidyar Foundation with his wife Pamela in 1998. The couple have reportedly invested US$115 million in Humanity United (under the Omidyar Foundation umbrella), which supports 85 anti-slavery nonprofits and on-the-ground projects in five countries, including Nepal.

Community Development

Eight of 20 on the list included community development among their principal causes. This April, Bloomberg launched a $42 million “What Works Cities” initiative through Bloomberg Philanthropies; the goal is to help 100 mid-sized American cities enhance their use of data to improve the lives of residents and boost government transparency. The first eight cities selected to participate in the open data programs are Chattanooga, Tennessee; Jackson, Mississippi; Kansas City, Missouri; Louisville, Kentucky; Mesa, Arizona; New Orleans, Louisiana; Seattle, Washington; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Arts & Culture

Arts and culture was supported by 25 percent of the “Most Generous” list, making it the fifth most popular cause, ahead of the environment (four out of 20) and religion (3 out of 20). KB Home co-founder and former SunAmerica CEO Eli Broad has been an active patron of the arts, creating the Broad Art Foundation. Recipients include the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

For more details on the Generosity Index, read the full list on Business Insider.

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