EdelGive Hurun Philanthropists of the Century 2021: List of 10 most generous people in the world

In this article, we have curated a list of the top 10 philanthropists in the world in the past 100 years. Father of the Indian Industry Jamsetji Tata tops the list.
List of top 10 philanthropists in the world in the past 100 years
List of top 10 philanthropists in the world in the past 100 years

On 23 June 2021, Hurun Research and EdelGive Foundation released the 2021 EdelGive Hurun Philanthropists of the Century, a ranking of the world’s most generous individuals from the past century.

With donations worth US$102.4 billion, Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, founder of the Tata Group, has topped the list. Interestingly, he is the only Indian on the top 10 list. 

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. 

The data for the report was derived from publicly available sources and in certain cases, directly shared by the foundations. 

Check the complete list below:

Rank Original Philanthropist Estimated Current Value of Donation 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

1- Jamsetji Tata: 

With donations totalling worth US$102.4bn, Father of the Indian Industry Jamsetji Tata (1839-1904) became the world’s biggest philanthropist in the last 100 years. His total philanthropic value is made up of 66% of Tata Sons, estimated at US$100bn, solely based on the value of listed entities.

He made his fortune in the 1870s after floating Central India Spinning Weaving and Manufacturing Company and set up the JN Tata Endowment in 1892 for higher education, which was the beginning of Tata Trusts. India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, often cited him as the ‘One Man Planning Commission’.  

2- Bill Gates & Melinda French Gates:

When talking about the modern-day philanthropists, Bill & Melinda Gates are certainly the names one can think of. With total donations of US$74.6bn, Bill Gates & Melinda French Gates are on number two on the list. Their total philanthropic value is the sum of the current endowment of the value of the foundation at US$49.8bn together with their cumulative donations of US$24.8bn. 

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was established in 2010 with a focus on public health, education and climate change. The same year they created with Warren Buffett the 'Giving Pledge', a movement encouraging billionaires to donate the majority of their wealth to charity. As of 2021, there are 220 pledgers from 25 countries.

How Mark Zuckerberg joins the $100 billion club of Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos?

3- Henry Wellcome: 

Henry Wellcome (1853-1936) of the United Kingdom ranked at the third position with total donations of US$56.7bn. In the late 1800s, he made his initial wealth in pharmaceuticals. Wellcome Trust, a charitable foundation was established with legacies from the pharmaceutical magnate Henry Wellcome to fund research to improve human and animal health. In 1995, the Wellcome Trust sold Wellcome Plc to GlaxoSmithKline and became a financially independent trust. Donations are the sum of the current endowment value of Wellcome Trust (US$38.4bn) and cumulative donations to date of US$18.3bn.

4- Howard Hughes:

Film tycoon Howard Hughes (1905-1976) who claimed the fourth spot on the list, established the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 1953 to support biomedical research. In 1985, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute sold the Hughes Aircraft Company for US$5.2bn, becoming the richest single philanthropic endowment surpassing Ford Foundation. Donations are the current endowment value of Howard Hughes Medical Institute (US$21.2bn) together with cumulative donations of US$17.4bn.

5- Warren Buffett:

Popularly known as the ‘The Oracle of Omaha’, Warren Buffett, with personal donations of US$37.4bn, ranked at the fifth position in the list. Buffett gifted the bulk of his Berkshire Hathaway shares to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation and non-profits founded by his children. Buffett has given away more than US$37bn as part of his yearly commitments and intends to donate his remaining shares within 12 years.

It is interesting to note that Warren Buffet is the only individual on the list without a significant philanthropic foundation.

6- George Soros:

The man who broke the bank of England, George Soros, is sixth on the list. In 1979, he began his philanthropy by giving scholarships and establishing the Open Society Foundation, which includes more than 20 national and regional foundations. In 2017, he transferred US$18bn to Open Society Foundations. Donations include the current endowment value of The Open Society Foundations (US$18bn) and cumulative donations of US$16.8bn.

7- Hans Wilsdorf:

The founder of Rolex, Hans Wilsdorf (1881-1960), is in the seventh position on the list. He endowed his economic ownership in Rolex, the watchmaking empire, to create Hans Wilsdorf Foundation in 1945. Currently, the foundation is administered by 8 board members and has been making an estimated annual donation of more than US$100mn.

8- JK Lilly Sr:

With total donations worth US$27.5bn, JK Lilly Sr (1861-1948) earned the eighth position on the list. In 1937, JK Lilly Sr along with his sons established Lilly Endowment to support community development, education and religion. Since its inception, the endowment donated more than US$10.9bn, most of them in Indiana and has an endowment value of US$17bn.

9- John D Rockefeller:

Often regarded as the wealthiest American of all time, John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937) ranked at the 9th position on the list. In 1913, he established the Rockefeller Foundation with a US$100mn corpus and gave away US$540 million (US$9.7bn adjusted for inflation) before his death in 1937. The Foundation has distributed more than US$22bn in current value since its inception.

10- Edsel Ford : 

Son of Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, Edsel Ford (1893-1943) achieved the tenth spot on the list. In 1936, Edsel Ford established the Ford Foundation with an initial gift of US$25,000. The foundation has an estimated endowment value of US$14.2bn as of 2019 and makes US$500mn annual grants around the world, on cumulative donations of US$12.4bn.

Besides Jamshetji Tata, Azim Premji, founder chairman of Wipro Limited, is the only Indian in the list of top 50 philanthropists of the century. He was the first Indian to sign the Giving Pledge in 2010 and has since then transferred 67% of Wipro stakes to the Azim Premji Endowment fund. He gained the 12th spot on the list. 

The Azim Premji Foundation, established in 2001, supports the elementary education system in rural government schools in India and has a value of US$21bn. The Azim Premji Foundation together with Wipro has donated US$150mn towards combating the horrific Covid-19 pandemic. 

Azim Premji Foundation and Wipro Limited commits Rs 1,125 crore for coronavirus cause


Who are the top 10 philanthropists in the last 100 years?

The top 10 philanthropists in the last 100 years are as follows: 1- Jamsetji Tata 2- Bill Gates & Melinda French Gates 3- Henry Wellcome 4- Howard Hughes 5- Warren Buffet 6- George Soros 7- Hans Wilsdorf 8- JK Lilly Sr 9- John D Rockefeller 10- Edsel Ford

What is the Giving Pledge?

It is an open invitation to billionaires to donate a majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes. As of August 2020, the pledge has 211 signatories from 23 nations.

Who made the biggest donation ever?

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos made the single-largest charitable contribution in 2020, a $10 billion gift aimed at fighting climate change.

Who is the biggest philanthropist in the world?

Jamsetji Tata, the founder of Tata Group, is the biggest philanthropist in the world.
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