Generous Billionaires
The most generous billionaires prefer to start charitable institutes or foundations with experts to distribute their money to worthy causes. Some accept applications for grants; others prefer to seek out organizations. Keep reading to learn more about the top seven most generous billionaires.

Top 7 Most Generous Billionaires

  1. Bill Gates
    The co-founder of Microsoft is now the co-chairman and trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, currently the wealthiest foundation in the world. Since 2000, the foundation has spent $36 billion on global health, disaster relief, poverty relief and more. It offers grants to a variety of nonprofits for-profits, and government agencies to carry out data-driven programs. The organization focuses on issues such as global health, such as vaccinations, malaria eradication and safe disposal of human waste.
  2. Chuck Feeney
    This entrepreneur and real estate mogul has earned the nickname “James Bond of Philanthropy.” He is an Irish-American who became a billionaire in the 60s and 70s. But in 1984, he agreed to sign away everything to his foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies. In 2003, he decided to spend his entire fortune in his lifetime, or, as he puts it, “giving while living.” Atlantic Philanthropies is currently in eight countries and has given away $8 billion to “promote fairness and equity for all.” Chuck Feeney’s generosity index (amount given versus current net worth) is 420,000 percent. The foundation is expected to close its doors in 2020 when he achieves his goal of giving everything away.
  3. Warren Buffett
    Warren Buffett is the most charitable billionaire in America, outranking even Bill Gates. He has given away $46 billion since 2000, about 71 percent of his fortune. The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named in honor of his late wife, pledged $150 million a year in grants to help disadvantaged women by making reproductive healthcare accessible, in addition to other social causes. He has created the now-famous Giving Pledge, in which he calls on generous billionaires to donate half their wealth.
  4. Azim Premji
    The chairman of information technology company Wipro, Azim Premji, dedicates his wealth to improving India’s primary education. Rather than distributing grants, Premji’s foundation, the Azim Premji Foundation, chooses to work with state and local governments to build schools, write curriculum, buy supplies and many other tasks.  He has given away $21 billion and reached 3.5 billion schools. When the foundation could not find enough teachers, Premji created the Azim Premji University to focus on education and development. His donations make him the most generous man in Indian history.
  5. Michael Bloomberg
    The founder and CEO of Bloomberg Media, Michael Bloomberg has given $6 billion through his foundation Bloomberg Philanthropies and has promised half his wealth to the Giving Pledge. His philanthropy is focused on five areas he is passionate about: the environment, public health, the arts, government innovation and education. He is particularly drawn to global warming and other issues, where others might refuse to act due to controversy.
  6. Sheikh Sulaiman bin Abdulaziz bin Saleh Al Rajhi
    Al Rajhi began his career in 1939 at age 10 as a kerosene seller. In 1957, he and his three brothers co-founded the Al Rajhi Bank. The bank saw great success during the oil boom of the 1970s. The family is currently Saudi Arabia’s richest non-royal family. His charitable institution currently funds 1,200 projects across the kingdom. He has given approximately $5.7 billion toward educational, health and religious causes.
  7. George Soros
    After nine years as a successful hedge fund manager, George Soros created his charitable Open Source Foundations. “Open society is based on the recognition that our understanding of the world is inherently imperfect…what is imperfect can be improved,” says Soros on the name of his foundation. His first venture started by offering scholarships to black South Africans and Eastern European dissidents at the University of Cape Town to study abroad. It is now the second-largest American charity, behind the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Soros has given $8 billion to Open Source Foundations.

According to Forbes, there are more than 2,000 billionaires in the world. Many only donate a nominal amount to charity. The generous billionaires on this list have been chosen not by the dollar amounts of their donations, but the percentage of their fortune they have given away.

In 2010, the Gates partnered with Warren Buffett to create the Giving Pledge, a commitment by wealthy individuals to give over half of their wealth away. The Pledge started with 40 individuals but has since grown to 190. Buffet stated, “More than 99 percent of my wealth will go to philanthropy during my lifetime or at death. Measured by dollars, this commitment is large. In a comparative sense, though, many individuals give more to others every day.”

Jackie Mead
Photo: Google Images

definition of foundation
Nonprofits, charities, and foundations are often lumped into the general definition of “charity” when it comes to global poverty. That is to say, these three terms are used interchangeably in reference to altruistic organizations across the globe. Yet charities and foundations can be quite different from one another.

Nonprofits, or non-profit organizations, are organizations that operate on a not-for-profit business model. That is to say, nonprofits use whatever profit they may earn to reinvest in pursuit of the organization’s unique charitable interests. Within the category of nonprofits, however, charities and foundation take on very different challenges. We can most easily see the difference by studying these organizations side-by-side.

Whereas charities, such as homeless shelters, often bleed money and are constantly searching for new or continued sources of income to support their projects and programs, foundations are the organizations that supply those funds. In short, charities are nonprofits that either reinvest the profits they make or rely on outside sources of funding. Foundations, on the other hand, are the grantmakers that make such funding happen.

Foundations can be divided into two or three subcategories: private foundations, public charities, and private operating foundations. Private foundations and public charities make up the majority of foundations, while private operating foundations represent the remaining minority.

Private foundations are funded by individuals or families, often operated by the donor or family members of the donor themselves. Public charities, accounting for more than half of all 501(c)(3) organizations, derive their support from diverse sources, including individuals, corporations, other foundations, and even government agencies. Both kinds of foundations, however, as well the lesser-known private operating foundation, work to provide grants for unrelated charitable purposes, which is what very clearly distinguishes a foundation from a charity or the more general definition of non-profit organization.

– Herman Watson

Sources: Grant Space, Minnesota Council on Foundations, How Stuff Works
Photo: Henry Lim

In John Tyler’s book “Transparency in Philanthropy,” the author discusses the idea of allowing the government to demand transparency among charities and other philanthropic organizations, and whether or not it would be beneficial to the charities and the people who support them. Tyler draws the seemingly paradoxical conclusion that “transparency is complicated” in his book, because even though transparency in charities can help make business processes simpler by removing secrets, it can also prove to be a challenge, especially if it is mandated and not voluntary.

Many organizations choose to be transparent in their work, and some philanthropic groups will readily supply all the numbers about how much they donated, received, paid in salaries, etc. This is a good thing because it 1) ensures that there are no secrets being kept behind closed doors about the donations, and 2) encourages trust. If people know where their money is going when they donate to a charity, they may be more likely to give and give more often. Tyler also mentions that foundations with stakeholders are legally obligated to share their information with them, but there is a difference between legal and social transparency.

There is a down-side to demanding transparency in the philanthropic sector, though. If the government demands a charity to be transparent, that means people can easily research to find these companies’ tax returns. While this may not seem like much of a problem, “in countries with weak rule of law, such information could be used to harass and pressure donors.” Then, because of these pressures, people are frightened away and donations dramatically decrease, which hurts everyone.

Philanthropic foundations are necessary to organize donations and charity around the world, and sometimes transparency is a good thing, especially when it’s voluntary. But at other times, it can lead to results that don’t help anyone.

Katie Brockman

Source: Forbes
Photo: FDA