Pioneering American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie once set the standard for giving back: “No man can become rich without himself enriching others,” he said. “The man who dies rich dies disgraced.”
Scores of the world’s wealthiest people have taken to his philosophy, donating their riches to hundreds of causes.
We worked with our friends at Wealth-X, a firm that does research and valuations on ultra-high net worth individuals, to compile a list of the 20 most generous people in the world, ranked by total charitable giving to date.
Since you need to have a lot to give a lot, Wealth-X also determined each person’s Generosity Index, which is the ratio of their
lifetime donations to their current net worth. Some people, like retail magnate Chuck Feeney, known as the “James Bond of philanthropy,” have indices over 100% because they have given away more money than they currently have.
With a total combined donation amount of $US106.8 billion, these 20 individuals are the top philanthropists in the world.
Lifetime donations: $US1 billion
Net worth: $US6.3 billion
Generosity Index: 16%
German IT entrepreneur Dietmar Hopp is the cofounder and former chairman and CEO of SAP, a multinational company that provides application and analytics software and software-related services for enterprises worldwide.
Twenty years ago, Hopp established Dietmar Hopp Stiftung, a foundation that supports local education, sports, and health causes in his hometown in Germany, including the Heidelberg Institute for Stem Cell Technology and Experimental Medicine (HI-STEM), University Hospital Heidelberg, and the Nathalie Todenhofer Foundation.
: $US1.2 billion
Net worth: $US12.3 billion
Generosity Index: 10%
James Simons is chairman of investment-management company Renaissance Technologies, one of the largest and most successful hedge fund companies in the world with $US65 billion in assets. Simons served as the company's CEO until retiring in 2009.
Twenty-one years ago, Simons and his wife Marilyn established the Simons Foundation, which primarily supports educational causes. Since then, the couple has founded two additional organisations in memory of their two sons who died in 1996 and 2003: The Paul Simons Foundation gives to social and educational causes, and the Nick Simons Foundation trains rural healthcare workers in Nepal and gives to humanitarian and social causes.
Simons has also donated $US30 million to autism research and has pledged to donate $US100 million more.
: $US1.2 billion
Net worth: $US2.1 billion
Generosity Index: 57%
Ted Turner, former CEO of Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) and vice chairman and director of AOL Time Warner, is the current chairman of Turner Enterprises, a diversified holding company.
Turner also serves as trustee of the Turner Global Foundation and chairman of the Turner Foundation, which both donate to community development and environmental and wildlife conservation causes.
The UN Foundation is also a chief recipient of Turner's donations. In 1997 he pledged $US1 billion to the foundation, which promotes causes related to women and population, children's health, environment, world peace, and security.
: $US1.2 billion
Net worth: $US940 million
Generosity Index: 128%
Jon Huntsman Sr. is the founder and executive chairman of Huntsman Corporation, a chemical product manufacturer.
Huntsman has reportedly survived prostate and mouth cancer and, as a result, established the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah. Many of his charitable donations have been to colleges and cancer-research centres. He and his wife also agreed to join Buffett's Giving Pledge, promising to donate 50% of their wealth.
: $US2 billion
Net worth: $US17.3 billion
Generosity Index: 12%
Paul Allen, cofounder of Microsoft, now serves as the chairman of Vulcan, his private-investment company.
As chairman of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, he's given millions to global-health causes, including $US5 million to Seattle BioMed, $US4 million to Global FinPrint, a conservation project focused on the preservation of sharks worldwide, and $US7 million in grants to Alzheimer's research.
: $US3 billion
Net worth: $US37.7 billion
Generosity Index: 8%
Michael Bloomberg is the founder and CEO of Bloomberg media company and founder of the Bloomberg Foundation, which gives primarily to educational, healthcare, and environmental causes. Recipients of the foundation's donations include John Hopkins University, World Lung Foundation, World Health Organisation, Sierra Club Foundation, and John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Most recently, Bloomberg launched a $US42 million 'What Works Cities' initiative aimed at helping 100 mid-sized cities to make better use of data and evidence through his philanthropic arm, Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Lifetime donations: $US3.3 billion
Net worth: $US9.3 billion
Generosity Index: 35%
George Kaiser, chairman of BOK Financial Corporation, also founded the George Kaiser Family Foundation, which gives to educational, health, religious, social, and community-development-related causes, including the Tulsa Community College Foundation, Oklahoma City Educare, National Energy Policy Institute, the Tulsa Community Foundation and the University of Tulsa.
In 2010, Kaiser joined the Giving Pledge, vowing to donate half of his fortune to charity.
Lifetime donations: $US5 billion
Net worth: $US6.5 billion
Generosity Index: 77%
Gordon Moore cofounded Intel in 1968, but these days he is focused on philanthropy. He retired from his corporate positions in 2006, and currently runs the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation with his wife.
The foundation aims to make an impact in environmental conservation, patient care, science, and the San Francisco community, and has wide-spanning programs that include everything from the Marine Conservation Initiative to the Thirty Meter Telescope.
Lifetime donations: $US5.7 billion
Net worth: $US590 million
Generosity Index: 966%
Back in 1957, Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi cofounded Al Rajhi Bank with his three brothers. It grew into one of the world's largest Islamic banks and earned Al Rajhi a 10-digit net worth.
But in 2013, he shifted his focus toward philanthropy and endowed his holdings in the bank to Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi Endowments Holding Company, which supports educational, religious, health, and social causes, including the Arab Institute for Arabic Language, National Guard Health Affairs, and the Sheikh Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi Mosque in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Lifetime donations: $US6.3 billion
Net worth: $US1.5 million
Generosity Index: 420,000%
Known as the 'James Bond of philanthropy,' retail magnate Chuck Feeney is on a mission to give away his entire fortune -- and with his current net worth down to $US1.5 million, it seems he's succeeded.
The Atlantic Philanthropies, Feeney's foundation, supports education, science, healthcare, and civil-rights causes across several countries, including the US, Vietnam, and Bermuda.
Lifetime donations: $US8 billion
Net worth: $US24.4 billion
Generosity Index: 33%
George Soros, the retired founder of Soros Fund Management, currently serves as the chairman of the Open Society Foundations, a network of foundations he founded in 1979, which primarily donate to international causes, community development, social services, health, and education.
Open Society is best known for its focus on human rights. Soros' first act with the organisation involved providing scholarships to black South Africans under apartheid.
Lifetime donations: $US21.5 billion
Net worth: $US61 billion
Generosity Index: 35%
The chairman and CEO of holding company Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett is not only one of the wealthiest people in the world, he's also one of the most charitable.
In 2006, Buffett vowed to donate 85% of his wealth to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as other foundations set up by family members.
And in 2011, the Oracle of Omaha partnered with Gates in creating the Giving Pledge, a program that commits wealthy individuals to donating a large percentage of their wealth to charitable causes.
Lifetime donations: $US27 billion
Net worth: $US84.2 billion
Generosity Index: 32%
While he is best known as the cofounder of Microsoft, Bill Gates now focuses most of his time on philanthropy, running the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation alongside his wife.
The foundation issues grants for initiatives and programs across the globe, focusing on agricultural development, emergency relief, global libraries, urban poverty, global health, and education.
Since its inception, the foundation has donated millions to organisations that include the GAVI Alliance; the World Health Organisation; The Rotary Foundation; The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; and UNICEF.