If you were wondering who are the world’s biggest philanthropists who give to individuals, you are at the right place. Literally translated from Greek, philanthropy means “love of mankind” and what better way can you think off than giving money to those in need?! Philanthropists are persons who seek to promote the welfare of those in need, often by generous money or land donations. It is true that there are a lot of selfish people in this world who, no matter how much wealth they have accumulated, keep all the money only for themselves but there are also those who wish to make an impact and change the world for the better. While a lot of philanthropists give money to various companies, hospitals, universities, etc. some of them give donations to individuals and this list is unique because it will focus on philanthropists who give to individuals.
The tradition of philanthropy in the United States goes all the way back to the founding fathers, and some of the biggest philanthropists in US history were the so-called robber barons who made their fortunes during the industrialization. One of the best known philanthropists of that era is Andrew Carnegie, who was perhaps the first person to say that rich have the moral obligation to give money to those in need. His primary goal was to make education available to everyone by building free public libraries. With self-education available many could, just like him, grow from “bobbin boys” into powerful self-made tycoons. Following in his footsteps many other rich men and women continued the tradition of helping others. Nowadays, many famous persons from Lady Gaga to Mark Zuckerberg often appear on various lists of charitable givers.
The very concept of “the biggest” something or someone is generally hard to justify, especially when it comes to philanthropy and charitable giving. While there are many institutions and companies who give considerable donations to those in need, the focus is usually placed on individuals who give their own money to help others. These people are amongst those who wish to impact and see positive changes in their society during their lifetime. Every year, various magazines publish lists of most generous givers and often ranks on these list change, depending on donations given that year. This means that it is actually pretty hard to pinpoint THE biggest philanthropists based on these facts. However, in order to identify the most generous givers or the greatest philanthropist of that particular year, various magazines usually focus on public donations in land and money as well as ratio of their lifetime (or yearly) donations to their current net worth. What does this mean? For example, David Geffen donated $29 million in 2015, but those $29 million make only 2% of his total net worth while someone like Paul Allen donated $160 million which is 10% of his total net worth. This places him higher on the list than, in this case, David Geffen. You can also take a look at our list of Top Philanthropists in the World to see our picks for biggest philanthropists.
Compiling this list of the biggest philanthropists who give to individuals was a bit tricky because of the specific emphasis on those who give money to individuals. While there are a lot of rich men and women who give significant sums of money to universities, hospitals, orphanages, etc., it was pretty hard to find information on those who give money to individuals. I focused on articles published by Business Insider, Forbes and The Independent and then I searched for specific information which of these individuals gives money to individuals. You wouldn’t believe how many times I read: “This foundation does not give money to individuals”. Besides isolated cases, none of these persons give money directly to unknown individuals but through scholarship and charitable programs. Along with those on the above mentioned lists, I’ve checked Oprah Winfrey and it was a good guess that she would be a perfect person for this list. Philanthropists on this list are ranked according to their lifetime donations (as published on Business Insider and Forbes) and if some of them have the same amount of lifetime donations they are ranked randomly. Those for whom I could not find data are on the bottom of the list.