Hurun Research and EdelGive Foundation today released the 2021 EdelGive Hurun Philanthropists of the Century, a ranking of the world’s most generous individuals from the past century. This is the first year of the ranking.

The ranking is based on Total Philanthropic Value, calculated as the value of the assets today together with the sum of gifts or distributions to date. For example, the Total Philanthropic Value of George Soros is the sum of current endowment of value of The Open Society Foundations (US$18bn) together with donations to date of US$16.8bn, ie a total of US$34.8bn. The Giving Pledges have not considered due to their non-binding nature.

The world’s 50 most generous individuals in the last century came from five countries, overwhelmingly led by the US with 39, followed by 5 from the UK, 3 from China, 2 from India and 1 from Portugal and Switzerland. Their donations amounted to US$832bn, of which US$503bn are in foundations today and US$329bn have been disbursed in the last century.

Top 10 of the 2021 EdelGive Hurun Philanthropists of the Century

Rank Original Philanthropist Estimated Current Value of Donation (US$bn) Start of Key Endowments Key Person Today Country Main Cause
1 Jamsetji Tata 102.4 1892 Ratan Tata India Education, 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 & Development
5 Warren Buffett 37.4 2006 Warren Buffett USA Healthcare
6 George Soros 34.8 1979 George Soros USA Human Rights & 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 Rockefeller USA Healthcare
10 Edsel Ford 26.6 1936 Darren Walker USA Human Rights & Justice

Source: 2021 EdelGive Hurun Philanthropists of the Century.

Vidya Shah, Executive Chairperson of EdelGive Foundation, said “In the age of the information overload, the EdelGive Hurun Report enables a more holistic understanding of the trends, motivations and mindsets that drive philanthropy across the world. The Report lays down a narrative, indicating the path that the philanthropic sector has taken to get here/to this point, and charts the course that it may likely take moving forward.”

Rupert Hoogewerf, Chairman and Chief Researcher of Hurun Report, said: “The stories of the world’s biggest philanthropists of the last century tell a tale of modern philanthropy. The legacies of the world’s earliest billionaires such as Carnegie and Rockefeller, through to the Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s of today, show how wealth created has been redistributed.”

“Whilst American and European philanthropists may have dominated the thinking of philanthropy over the last century, Jamsetji Tata, founder of India’s Tata Group, is the world’s biggest philanthropist.”

“Many of the philanthropists made the donation in the second generation rather than the first, such as the story of the Ford Foundation, which was set up by the son of Henry Ford.”

“Today’s billionaires are not keeping up with philanthropy, making money much faster than they are giving it away. The speed of wealth creation is nothing short of staggering.  Three individuals added more than US$50bn in a single year, led by Elon Musk with US$151bn, on the back of the rise of e-cars, whilst e-commerce billionaires Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Colin Huang of Pinduoduo added US$50bn each. At this rate, expect to see fifty or more break through the US$100bn mark within the next five years.”

“How many billionaires are there in the world? The world today has probably 7,500 dollar billionaires, up 1,000 on last year, assuming that for every one Hurun Research found, we have probably missed at least one if not more, particularly from the Gulf states.  We have found 696 billionaires in the USA, for example, suggesting the true number should be at least double that, perhaps as many as 1,500. In China, we have found over 1000, but the actual number is probably closer to 2,500.”


Anas Rahman Junaid, MD and Chief Researcher of Hurun India said: “It is a proud moment to see an Indian top the 2021 EdelGive Hurun Philanthropists of the Century.”


Key findings of the report

Most of the entrants in the list created their charitable trusts by endowing the shares owned in their respective family businesses. In certain cases, their immediate descendants created the charitable foundations, named after their parents.

The top 50 philanthropists cumulatively distributed US$329bn over the years. Philanthropists such as Warren Buffet, Mackenzie Scott donated directly or through other foundations.

The top 50 individuals collectively contributed US$30bn or 6% of their total endowments as annual grants. With US$8.5bn donations, MacKenzie Scott is the biggest annual grant maker followed by Warren Buffett (US$2.7bn) and Bill & Melinda Gates (US$2.5bn).

Most of the Top 50 philanthropists or their private foundations donated towards Covid-19. The Ford Foundation (US$1bn), W.K. Kellogg Foundation (US$300mn), Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (US$200mn), MacArthur Foundation (US$125bn) and Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (US$100mn) issued a US$1.75bn bond offering to countering the unprecedented public health and economic crisis.

With 38 philanthropists USA topped the list of countries, followed by the UK with 5 and China with 3.

The average age of the Top 50 foundations is 58 years.

Nearly 66% of the Top 50 philanthropic institutions are managed by founders or founding family members and the remaining 34% managed by professional managers without the involvement of founding family members.


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