Largest Charitable Gifts

Biggest Charitable Donations

Largest Charitable Gifts
September 15, 2015

It's easy to rail about income inequality and the “one percent”, and certainly, income inequality has risen in the U.S. and in many other areas of the world. However, there are also a number of billionaires who have shared their wealth through large charitable donations, or pledged to give away over half of their wealth through the Giving Pledge, a program started by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates.

The most recent large charitable donation was made by Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who pledged to give his approximately $32 billion fortune to charity, citing Bill and Melinda Gates as his inspiration. The donation will be made over a several-year period through his charitable organization, Alwaleed Philanthropies, and added to the $3.5 billion he has already donated over time. The total donation amount appears to give the Prince the current title of the largest charitable donation amount in the world.

Let's look at a few of the other biggest charitable donations, headed by the co-founders of the Giving Pledge.

  • Warren Buffett – In 2006, the Oracle of Omaha donated $30 billion in Berkshire Hathaway Stock to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. These donations were given a few conditions: the foundation had to qualify as a charity and operate as one, Bill and Melinda Gates had to be involved in the administration, and the charity had to give away at least the same amount as the previous year's gift.

According to Forbes, as of 2014, Buffett gave away $19.9 billion, or 30% of his net worth up to that point in time. 2014 donations according to SEC filings include $2.8 billion to the Gates Foundation and just over $800 million to charitable foundations headed by his family.

  • Bill and Melinda Gates – In 1999, Bill and Melinda Gates donated $11 billion to their foundation, which is now the largest private charitable funding organization in the world. Their total lifetime giving was $30.2 billion as of 2014, or approximately 37% of their net worth.
  • Gordon Moore – The co-founder of Intel pledged $5 billion in 2000 to his foundation that focuses on science and environmental concerns as well as nursing education. Moore’s foundation has reportedly given away $2.6 billion of that over time.
  • George Soros – Soros has donated approximately $10.7 billion over time, or 45% of his net worth, making him one of the most generous of the mega-rich with respect to the percentage of income given away. The giving has not come in one large pledge but as a continuous process throughout the years.
  • Carlos Slim Helú – Some may be surprised to find the Mexican magnate on this list, since he has publicly stated that creating jobs does more good than "band-aid charitable giving." Yet he has doled out the band-aids himself over the years, donating approximately $8 billion to charities worldwide. That's approximately 9% of his net worth.
  • William Hewlett – The $6 billion donation in 2001 by the estate of the Hewlett-Packard co-founder was one of the largest single donations ever made. The William and Flora Hewlett foundation continues on today with over $7 billion in assets.

Many other philanthropists have given large amounts of money or have pledged to do so in the future, such as Michael Bloomberg, Mark Zuckerberg, the members of the Walton family, and the entire list at the Giving Pledge. We are glad to see a charitable trend rising, and hope it continues. Perhaps we will reach the point where "the one percent" will not be used as a pejorative.


Photo ©iStock.com/Catherine Lane

  Conversation   |   35 Comments

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Steven | 09.15.15 @ 16:02
If only all those who made millions donated things it would probably be better. But it is nice to see some donate.
Steffanie | 09.15.15 @ 16:03
I think it's great these people have been able to contribute so much.
Elaine | 09.15.15 @ 16:04
This reminds me of several preachers that are HUGE givers and yet they are bashed in the media for having too much. What you sow, you will reap. So many reap prosperity and they sow all over again.
Amanda | 09.15.15 @ 16:07
I think it depends on the percentage of their worth. I have seen plenty of rich people who can walk by homeless families and not give when they have so much to give and I being low income will give my last few dollars if I see someone really needing it.
Crystal | 09.15.15 @ 16:08
Great to see some of these names!
Britt | 09.15.15 @ 16:09
I love people who donate a large amount of money to charities.
Beverly | 09.15.15 @ 16:10
Good for them, I have to say I'm a pessimist though and really hope those donations are really to charitable causes and not just a way to take money from one pot and put it into another. If only more people were charitable.
Christina | 09.15.15 @ 16:11
It would be great if everyone among the "1%" followed suite. Bill and Melinda Gates, along with Susan and Michael Dell, really set a great example.
Sarah | 09.15.15 @ 16:13
I love seeing that some of the wealthy are generous with it as well.
Sara | 09.15.15 @ 16:17
It is nice to see that people really do give.
Nancy | 09.15.15 @ 16:21
I love hearing about these donations. I will have to do a bit of research and see who actually received from these foundations.
Irene | 09.15.15 @ 16:22
Great to see that they give back so to speak. For those of us who aren't billionaires I believe it is the people who have the least who often give the most because we know what it's like to go without.
Ron | 09.15.15 @ 16:44
Give to make an impact, give to do whatever, but make sure you give. There is no karma, just the knowledge you helped without being asked.
Meredith L | 09.15.15 @ 16:45
I wholeheartedly agree with @Irene It seems those who have the least give the most - but not in all cases. Remember, the people who make millions and billions are SMART with their money. Donations give them huge tax saving incentives too.
Kyle | 09.15.15 @ 16:50
That is a lot of money going into charities!
Daniel Dohlstrom | 09.15.15 @ 16:55
Sure those with more can and maybe should give more but in the end it is for each to choose
Kamie | 09.15.15 @ 16:57
It is nice to see that there are some wealthy people who give.
Debbie | 09.15.15 @ 17:02
If they are donating to their own foundations how are we sure it even happened and that the money isn't still in their pockets somehow?
Morgan | 09.15.15 @ 17:02
I recognize a lot of the names on this list! Amazing.
Alec | 09.15.15 @ 17:04
It's wonderful seeing how much these extremely wealthy people donate out of their earnings. They're helping make a huge difference in the world and leading the way at showing people how to be generous and give back to the nation.
Kailie | 09.15.15 @ 17:08
Awesome . I think it's great that people do this with money when they have it
Bobbie | 09.15.15 @ 17:16
Great to see such large amounts going to charities. Hope they are all well run and going to the services they are set up for, and not into the pockets of those running the charities.
Jo Ann | 09.15.15 @ 17:19
My biggest problem with them giving away their money is that a lot of their wealth they gained by shipping jobs overseas, tax loopholes, and paying wages that have stagnated over the last 20 years. True wealth should belong to the people who helped put those dollars in their pockets, from the janitor in their office buildings to the mail room guy, These people are the ones that helped make them rich. And it leaves a sour taste in my mouth that the people who put them where they are, are not the ones being helped.
Zanna | 09.15.15 @ 17:22
Many of them give because they believe, not just due to tax breaks. It's good to see!
Heather | 09.15.15 @ 17:26
It's great when you do see the wealthy donate to great charities and organizations. Now if only others would follow.
gracie | 09.15.15 @ 17:42
It's good to see people donating when they have enough. Big or little I think if we find ourselves with enough in life we should give a little to those who may not have enough.
trish | 09.15.15 @ 17:43
It's great to see those that have so much, are willing to give so much as well
Clarissa | 09.15.15 @ 17:50
I think it's great that people give to those in need. Just think, there are so many little things we take for granted that some peoe don't even have. If I am able to once my bills are all paid, I always try and give something to those in need and hope they are able to use it for something they need.
Kelley | 09.15.15 @ 18:14
I wish everyone who had the means to do so would help out those in need. Unfortunately, such a small number bother.
Rychana Vingia | 09.15.15 @ 18:17
I wish more rich people would take the initiative to give more like these people. It's great to see not all people are greedy.
Jackie | 09.15.15 @ 18:17
I feel it's great when people who can afford it donate large sums.
Angie | 09.15.15 @ 18:34
Now this is news that I'd like to see on the news media spread far and wide. Their example should be followed. I'd like to see articles detailing the good their donations accomplished.
Crystal | 09.15.15 @ 18:41
Some are so generous
Courtney | 09.15.15 @ 18:52
I always try to donate a few dollars every time I see someone who needs it. I help where I can.
Erin | 09.15.15 @ 19:29
I'm happy to see there are those who are willing to help others who need it.
$commenter.renderDisplayableName() | 12.08.16 @ 16:35
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