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10 Biggest Philanthropists Who Give to Individuals

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 and foundations 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 and foundations 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 at the bottom of the listof biggest philanthropists who give to individuals.

10. Oprah Winfrey

Lifetime donations: No precise data

Coming from a poor background herself, Oprah Winfrey, one of the biggest philanthropists who give to individuals, decided that she would give a significant amount of her fortune to those in need of financial support. Among other things, Oprah Winfrey Scholarship for African Women which grants scholarships to African women helping them to become educated and to prepare for public services in their own countries. Education takes place at Wagner school and the scholarship covers all tuition fees as well as accommodation. You can read more about Oprah Winfrey’s charitable causes on this link.

Greatest Philanthropists who give to Individuals

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9. John and Julie Mork

Amount donated in 2011: $110 million (Ranked No. 10 on The Chronicle of Philanthropy website)

The Mork family believes that the best way to invest in future is to invest in higher education. In 2011, Morks donated $110 million to undergraduate scholarships to all deserving students, from all backgrounds. Mork Family Scholarship is available for approximately 10 students each year. For more information, take a look at their website.

Greatest Philanthropists who give to Individuals

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8. Jon Huntsmen Sr.

Lifetime donations: $1, 2 billion

We are continuingour list of biggest philanthropists who give to individuals with Jon Huntsmen Sr. that received prestigious philanthropic leadership honor which testifies to his charitable giving. A cancer survivor himself, Mr. Huntsmen donated more than $450 million to Huntsmen Cancer Institute which combines inpatient and outpatient care with research as well. Besides this, he (and his wife) gave significant donations to the University of Utah in form of scholarships. So, he gives money to eligible individuals in form of scholarship to students who are in financial need to attend college. For more about this scholarship, take a look at the official website.

7. James and Marilyn Simons

Lifetime donations: $1, 2 billion

Sometimes dubbed as “the world’s smartest billionaire“, James Simons (along with his wife Marilyn) is one of the biggest philanthropists who give to individuals and that funds education and research in mathematics, autism, etc. Simons Foundation support sscientists in form of direct grants to individual investigators.  The foundation makes grants in four areas: Mathematics and Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, autism research (SFARI) and Education & Outreach. For more information, visit the official website of the Simons Foundation.

Greatest Philanthropists who give to Individuals

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6. Michael Bloomberg

Lifetime donations: $3 billion

Michael Bloomberg, next on our list of biggest philanthropists who give to individuals takes the No. 11 spot on the Business Insider’s list of most generous people in the world. His generosity is also available for individuals who need financial help for finishing their studies. Besides this, The Bloomberg Fellows Program offers help to individuals who are working with organizations that deal with: addiction and overdose, environmental changes, food systems, obesity, risks to adolescent health and violence. Half way through our list of the biggest philanthropists who give to individuals, we can see that the best way to give money to individuals is to pay for their education. In this way, they are prepared to take control over their lives and perhaps, in the future, they shall continue with philanthropic work.

Greatest Philanthropists who give to Individuals


5. Eli and Edythe Broad

Lifetime donations: $3,3 billion

Through their Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, these philanthropists invest in various organizations, programs and make grants to promising people who work to improve living standards around the world.  Instead of having an application process, their team seeks for innovative leaders with transformative ideas. Besides financial support, this foundation offers assistance to their grantees from an early-stage implementation of their ideas all the way to reaching their goal.

Greatest Philanthropists who give to Individuals


4. Carlos Slim Helú

Lifetime donations: $4 billion

Number four on our list of biggest philanthropists who give to individuals is Carlos Slim Helú that is an international business man and philanthropist. In 2012, he announced that he will give full tuition scholarships for George Washington University for those who study engineering, business and international affairs. However, candidates must be graduates from a Mexican university who are accepted for admission at George Washington University. You can read more about eligibility if you follow this link.

3. George Soros

Lifetime donations: $8 billion

George Soros is one of the well-known philanthropists who gives his money primarily to those who face discrimination and live on the margins of society such as drug users and sex workers. He is a keen supporter of LGBT rights and rights of ethnic minorities. The Open Society Foundation gives grants, fellowships and scholarships to organizations as well as individuals. Individuals may apply for multiple grants at once. For more information, please visit the official website.

Greatest Philanthropists who give to Individuals

2. Warren Buffett

Lifetime donations: $21, 5 billion

Warren Buffett is yet another philanthropist who believes that the greatest gift one can get is a gift of education. He founded the Warren Buffett Scholarship to students with financial needs. However, he does not provide individuals only with scholarships for education but financial help for other fields as well. This foundation was renamed to Susan Thomson Buffet, after his wife passed away in 2004. More information on college scholarship is available on this link but take into consideration that only those who attended high school in Nebraska are eligible.

Greatest Philanthropists who give to Individuals

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1. Bill and Melinda Gates

Lifetime donations: $27 billion

The Gates Millenium Scholars Program provides opportunities for outstanding minority students who do not have financial means to attend college. Hence, Bill and Melinda Gates give money to individuals (but through this specific program) as well as various companies and foundations. Individuals who are eligible for this scholarship have to have minimum 3.3 GPA and have to belong to one of the following ethnicities: African American, American Indian (or Alaska Native), Hispanic American or Asian Pacific Islander American. Each year 1,000 students are selected to receive this scholarship and average scholarship between 2000 and 2014 was $12.750 (total of $934,092,630 in this time period). Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda Gates, donated money to various organizations as well, including the GAVI Alliance; the World Health Organization; The Rotary Foundation; The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; and UNICEF which made them take the number one spot on Business Insider’s list of most generous people in the world. Regardless of the amount of money each of these men and women donate, we can definitely say that each one of them deserves to be part of our list of the biggest philanthropists who give to individuals because their donations, grants and various scholarships can help young men and women to change their lives for the better. They show, by example, that sharing is caring.

Greatest Philanthropists who give to Individuals

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