Philanthropy comes from the ancient Greek word “Philanthropia”, which means love for humanity. Today’s philanthropy means an act of altruism with a humanitarian purpose, that aims to bring welfare and relief. In simpler words, philanthropists address social problems and try to better different aspects of society like education and healthcare.
Philanthropic foundations are usually private foundations established by wealthy individuals, families, or corporations. Private Foundations are in control of the donors, and therefore they decide the selection of the board, who the funds are granted to, and how they are given away.[ref] These are some of the elements that differentiate philanthropic foundations from charities and NGOs.
The roots of Philanthropy
From the beginning of the organized society as we know it today, individuals have been subjected to a philanthropic nature and a need for helping their communities. Despite that, philanthropic beliefs were not organized in organizations. In the 18th century, most philanthropic foundations were organized by the church parishes and mainly associated with them. Over the years it drifted away from the religious path and instead individuals that understood the meaning of social responsibility and charity started these kinds of philanthropic initiatives.
Today, the number of foundations all over the world and their assets have increased dramatically and gained widespread acceptance. In the USA alone, there are more than 90.000 private foundations today according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, while the global reach is estimated to be over 260,000.[ref]
Famous Funds and Philathropists
Since 1977 giving through donations have steadily been increasing and the majority of that giving as well as promoting the initiative of philanthropy is coming mainly from wealthy individuals and the foundations they have established.
Here is a list of the 10 top philanthropists in the world:
|Rank||Original Philanthropist||Estimated Current Value of Donation (billions)||Start of Key Endowments||Key Family Member Today||Country||Main Cause|
|1.||Jamsetji Tata||102.4||1892||Ratan Tata||India||Education and Healthcare|
|2.||Bill Gates & Melinda French Gates||74.6||2000||Bill Gates & Melinda French Gates||USA||Healthcare|
|3.||Henry Wellcome||56.7||1936||Eliza Manningham Buller||UK||Healthcare|
|4.||Howard Hughes||38.6||1953||Clayton S. Rose||USA||Research and Development|
|5.||Warren Buffett||37.4||2006||Warren Buffet||USA||Healthcare|
|6.||George Soros||34.8||1979||George Soros||USA||Human Rights and Justice|
|7.||Hans Wilsdorf||31.5||1945||Marc Maugué||Switzerland||Community Development|
|8.||JK Lilly Sr||27.5||1937||N. Clay Robbins||USA||Community Development|
|9.||John D Rockefeller||26.8||1913||Sharon Percy Rockfeller||USA||Healthcare|
|10.||Edsel Ford||26.6||1936||Darren Walker||USA||Human Rights and Justice|
The ranking is based on Total Philanthropic Value, calculated as the value of the assets adjusted for inflation, together with the sum of gifts or distributions to date.[ref]
According to EdelGive Foundation and Hurun Research India, Jamsetji Tata, founder of Tata group is considered to be the biggest philanthropist of the last century and contributed mainly to education and healthcare, while the largest single charitable contribution was made in 2020, by Amazon Founder And CEO Jeff Bezos who donated a $10 billion gift aimed at fighting climate change.[ref]
Another initiative that promotes the commitment of philanthropy is the Giving Pledge which is a promise of wealthy individual and their families to dedicate their majority of their wealth to charitable causes.[ref]
Interested in donation? Check how can you donate to an NGO.
Written by Eleni Adamopoulou