Most Generous Rich People in the World
The richest people in the world might have a reputation for throwing lavish parties, swanning around on yachts and spending more on a car than most people do on a house.
Hey, when you’re a billionaire, you can afford to treat yourself, right? But some of the wealthiest people are also the most generous.
These superrich people use their fortune as a force for good.
Net worth: $22 billion
Money donated: $120 million-plus
Bottom Line: Masayoshi Son
Japanese tech entrepreneur Masayoshi Son is the leader of the $100 billion Vision Fund and has invested in tech startups like Slack and Uber via his holding company, Softbank.
Son is also the founder and president of the Masason Foundation, which is committed to "supporting youth who will create the future." In 2011, Son pledged about $120 million to support the victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami that resulted in more than 15,000 fatalities. He also promised to donate his annual salary ($2.1 million) to the victims of the disaster until he retires.
"We only live once, so I want to think big," said Son.
Net worth: $2.6 billion
Money donated: $400 million-plus
Bottom Line: Oprah Winfrey
With an estimated net worth of $2.6 billion, media mogul Oprah Winfrey is one of the richest self-made women in the U.S. As well known for her philanthropy as she is for her chat show, Winfrey had given away $400 million to educational causes by 2012.
In 2007, Winfrey launched the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls to improve the academic lives of girls in South Africa. In 2019, she donated $1.15 million to help minority students pay for college.
"What I know for sure is that what you give comes back to you," says Winfrey. "Either good or bad, what you radiate within yourself will come back to you in some way eventually. That's called karma."
Francoise Bettencourt Meyers
Net worth: $69.6 billion
Money donated: $500 million
Bottom Line: Francoise Bettencourt Meyers
Heiress to L’Oréal, the largest cosmetic company in the world, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers has donated around $500 million of her estimated $58.6 billion fortune to philanthropic causes.
The Bettencourt Schueller Foundation issues grants to support research in the life sciences and arts projects and to help find practical solutions for learning difficulties, particularly autism.
Net worth: $70 billion
Money donated: $500 million-plus
Bottom Line: Jack Ma
Jack Ma is one of the richest men in the world and was poised to become the richest man in China again before Chinese financial regulators suspended the market debut of his company Ant Group in November 2020.
In 2019, he stepped down as executive chairman of Alibaba Group, one of the largest e-commerce companies in the world. Ma said the decision was motivated by a desire to spend more time and money on his philanthropy via the Jack Ma Foundation.
Founded in 2014, the charity is devoted to improving China’s education system. In 2017, the company pledged $45 million to "help discover and cultivate future teaching talent in the rural regions of China." A few years later, the foundation awarded $1 million to African entrepreneurs.
Net worth: $75.5 billion
Money donated: $700 million-plus
Bottom Line: Larry Ellison
While Oracle Corp. founder Larry Ellison is known for his extravagant lifestyle, he’s also a notable philanthropist.
"We all have a duty to make the most of our own lives," Ellison wrote on the Larry Ellison Foundation website. "We also have a duty to work with others less fortunate to help them make the most of theirs."
For more than 30 years, his foundation has supported the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, which protects endangered species of gorillas.
Stewart and Lynda Resnick
Net worth: $9 billion
Money donated: $750 million-plus
Bottom Line: Stewart and Lynda Resnick
Stewart and Lynda Resnick own The Wonderful Company, which facilitates their various business ventures, including Fiji Water and the Teleflora floral wire service company.
The couples are committed to environmental causes, pledging $750 million to the California Institute of Technology for climate change crisis research in September 2019. Five years earlier, they donated $15 million to create the Resnick Institute Innovation Fund to provide fellowships and awards for students studying clean-energy and sustainability science.
"Any entrepreneur worth their salt knows that their brand is worthless if it doesn't somehow contribute to society or the overall good of the planet," said Lynda Resnick.
Net worth: $62.7 billion
Money donated: $1.7 billion
Bottom Line: MacKenzie Bezos
MacKenzie Bezos has always had a generous heart. In 2014, the novelist and philanthropist founded the anti-bullying organization Bystander Revolution, which encourages simple acts of courage, kindness and inclusion to combat bullying behavior.
In 2019, following her divorce from Jeff Bezos, MacKenzie announced that she would donate at least half of her fortune (estimated at more than $36 billion) to charity.
"We each come by the gifts we have to offer by an infinite series of influences and lucky breaks we can never fully understand," MacKenzie wrote in a thoughtful letter explaining her decision. "In addition to whatever assets life has nurtured in me, I have a disproportionate amount of money to share. My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time and effort and care. But I won’t wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty."
Michael and Susan Dell
Net worth: $30 billion
Money donated: $2 billion-plus
Bottom Line: Michael and Susan Dell
In 1999, Michael and Susan Dell set up the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, which has been supported primarily by the proceeds of sales of shares of Dell Inc., the computer technology company founded by Michael Dell in 1984.
Dell got his start after dropping out of college to run his own computer repair business. Today, the foundation he started with his wife has pledged more than $1.748 billion to children’s causes and community projects in the U.S., India and South Africa.
"There’s always an opportunity to make a difference," said Dell, who has many quotes to inspire people looking to succeed in life and business.
Net worth: $75.4 billion
Money donated: $2.2 billion
Bottom Line: Sergey Brin
Google co-founder and former Alphabet president Sergey Brin, who remains a controlling shareholder, board member and employee of Alphabet, has donated to charities focusing on Parkinson's research, including the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
It’s a cause close to his heart — he revealed on his blog in 2008 that he carried the genetic mutation known to be associated with familial Parkinson’s. In 2009, Brin donated $1 million to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a Jewish organization that helped Brin's family migrate to the U.S. almost 40 years ago.
"It’s not enough not to be evil," Brin said. "We also actively try to be good."
Laurene Powell Jobs
Net worth: $30 billion
Money donated: $2.3 billion-plus
Bottom Line: Laurene Powell Jobs
Laurene Powell Jobs is the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and one of the world’s richest women. In 2004, Powell founded the Emerson Collective, a social change organization that is named after Ralph Waldo Emerson and focused on issues such as the environment, gun violence, education reform and immigration reform.
Powell is changing the face of philanthropy with her work. She once wrote an essay on the importance of anonymous giving and handed it out to employees.
Her collective invests in private companies, but that choice isn’t motivated by money. It’s because, she says, Silicon Valley has shown that "amazing entrepreneurs who … are 100 percent aligned with our mission" can help find solutions that might not be within reach of a nonprofit.
"I've always thought you have to make the most of things," says Powell on her passion to give back.
Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan
Net worth: $107.7 billion
Money donated: $3.6 billion-plus
Bottom Line: Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan
In 2015, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that he and his wife Priscilla Chan planned to give away 99 percent of his Facebook shares to charity over their lifetime.
In an open letter to their newborn daughter Max, Zuckerberg wrote that their initial areas of focus would be "personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities."
The couple is typical of a growing number of young entrepreneurs who are keen to donate their wealth now, rather than later. "Our society has an obligation to invest now to improve the lives of all those coming into this world, not just those already here," said Zuckerberg.
Net worth: $9.4 billion
Money donated: $5 billion-plus
Bottom Line: Gordon Moore
If you have a PC, there’s a good chance it’s powered by Intel, one of the biggest computer chip companies in the world. The tech giant was co-founded by Gordon Moore, who also came up with Moore's Law, which states that computing increases in power and decreases in cost at an exponential rate.
In 2006, Moore retired to found the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Through his charity, he’s donated $5 billion to environmental conservation, patient care and many other worthwhile causes.
Moore considers himself an accidental entrepreneur and has lived his life with a simple mantra: "Everything will be fine as long as you don't give up. It will be hard in the beginning but don't stop."
Net worth: $4.5 billion
Money donated: $7.5 billion
Bottom Line: Azim Premji
The first Indian to sign Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet’s The Giving Pledge was investor Azim Premji, the founder chairman of IT company Wipro Limited. He started with a $2.3 billion donation to the Azim Premji Foundation, which focuses on education in India.
Premji isn’t scared to cause a stir. In 2013, he said that he supported a government proposal to tax India’s superrich. Unlike many of his fellow Indian billionaires, he has a modest lifestyle, driving a second-hand Mercedes Benz.
"The test of our social commitment and humanity is how we treat the most powerless of our fellow citizens, the respect we accord to our fellow human beings," said Premji. "That is what reveals our true culture."
Net worth: $2 billion
Money donated: $8 billion
Bottom Line: Chuck Feeney
Irish-American businessman Chuck Feeney made his fortune as co-founder of the Duty Free Shoppers Group. But the world has more to thank him for than savings on booze and fragrance.
Feeney founded The Atlantic Philanthropies, one of the largest private foundations in the world, and has used it as a vehicle to give away almost all of his wealth to worthwhile causes, such as education, healthcare and human rights.
For many years, Feeney donated more than $600 million in secret. "I simply decided I had enough money," he said. "It doesn't drive my life. I'm a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of guy."
His giving while living philosophy also inspired Bill Gates' philanthropy.
Carlos Slim Helu
Net worth: $54.3 billion
Money donated: $8 billion-plus
Bottom Line: Carlos Slim Helu
The richest person in Mexico (and the richest in the world from 2010 to 2013), Carlos Slim Helu made much of his fortune through mobile technology.
In 2016, he launched a platform to provide free education and job training in his home nation. He made the announcement to mark the 30th anniversary of the Carlos Slim Foundation, which focuses on education and healthcare and reportedly has a fund worth $5.5 billion.
"I’ve always said that the better off you are, the more responsibility you have for helping others," Slim believes. "Just as I think it’s important to run companies well, with a close eye to the bottom line, I think you have to use your entrepreneurial experience to make corporate philanthropy effective."
Net worth: $54.9 billion
Money donated: $9.5 billion
Bottom Line: Michael Bloomberg
The former New York City mayor and founder of Bloomberg media has a reputation for charitable giving. Michael Bloomberg has donated over $9 billion to different charities and organizations, most notably the World Health Organisation.
During his 12 years in office, he launched groundbreaking anti-poverty programs, including the Young Men’s Initiative and the Center for Economic Opportunity. Consequently, the city’s welfare numbers fell 25 percent. Since then, Bloomberg’s programs have been rolled out across the country.
Why does Bloomberg feel the need to give so much? "I've always respected those who tried to change the world for the better," he says. "Rather than just complain about it."
Net worth: $193.4 billion
Money donated: $12 billion-plus
Bottom Line: Jeff Bezos
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is the world’s richest man, and in 2019, he topped the list of the world’s biggest donors for giving in 2018.
According to the Philanthropy 50 list, a ranking of America’s top 50 donors compiled by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Bezos’ charitable contributions surpassed those of his comparable billionaires Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg after donating a total of $2 billion to charity through his Bezos Day One Fund, which was founded by his ex-wife MacKenzie Bezos. In 2020, Jeff Bezos gave $10 billion to fight climate change through the Bezos Earth Fund.
Bezos still has a ways to go to catch up to the $50 billion has given in his lifetime.
Net worth: $8.6 billion
Money donated: $32 billion
Bottom Line: George Soros
Hungarian-American investor, philanthropist and Holocaust survivor George Soros starting giving scholarships to black students in South Africa during apartheid in 1979. He used his wealth to launch the Open Society Foundations, which works to promote human rights in more than 120 countries.
Among Soros' numerous valuable contributions to society, he was instrumental in kickstarting the medical marijuana movement in the U.S. and has been a longtime supporter of same-sex marriage.
"I'm not doing my philanthropic work, out of any kind of guilt, or any need to create good public relations," Soros said in 2003. "I'm doing it because I can afford to do it, and I believe in it."
Net worth: $83 billion
Money donated: $37 billion-plus
Bottom Line: Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, founded The Giving Pledge with Bill Gates in 2009. Buffet himself has pledged to give away 99 percent of his fortune to philanthropic causes, primarily via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
"Were we to use more than 1 percent of my claim checks (Berkshire Hathaway stock certificates) on ourselves, neither our happiness nor our well-being would be enhanced. In contrast, that remaining 99 percent can have a huge effect on the health and welfare of others,” Buffett wrote on The Giving Pledge website in 2010.
Buffett explained it another way: "If you're in the luckiest 1 percent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 percent."
Bill and Melinda Gates
Net worth: $118.2 billion
Money donated: $50 billion
Bottom Line: Bill and Melinda Gates
Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft, the world’s largest personal computer software company, in 1975, and is one of the pioneers of the microcomputer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s. Today, Gates is one of the richest people in the world, and Bill and his wife, Melinda, are known for their generosity.
In 2000, they created the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is reported to be the world's largest private charity. And in June 2017, they donated $4.6 billion worth of Microsoft shares to the foundation to combat malaria and improve healthcare around the world.
The couple also started The Giving Pledge with fellow billionaire Warren Buffet in 2010 to inspire other rich people to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes.
"If you believe that every life has equal value, it’s revolting to learn that some lives are seen as worth saving and others are not," Gates explains. "We said to ourselves: 'This can’t be true. But if it is true, it deserves to be the priority of our giving.'"
Melinda adds: "Philanthropy is not about the money. It’s about using whatever resources you have at your fingertips and applying them to improving the world."