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An Indian tops the list of global philanthropists

In the 2021 EdelGive Hurun Philanthropists of the Century ranking, two Indians make it to the list of top 50 philanthropic donors.

In the last century, the 50 individuals have given away $832 billion on various philanthropic causes.
In the last century, the 50 individuals have given away $832 billion on various philanthropic causes. (iStock)

Jamsetji Tata, the founder of the Tata Group, is the most generous philanthropist in the 100 years. In the last century, Tata has apparently donated a total of $102.4 billion in charitable causes. Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates Foundation, which started its activities in 2000, ranks second with donations valued at $74.6 billion.

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Azim Premji of Wipro (ranked 12) was the only other Indian to make it to the top 50 philanthropists of the century ranking report. The debut report was unveiled by Hurun Research and EdelGive Foundation earlier today. Technically, the list looks at a time space over a century, since Tata’s philanthropic activity began in 1892.

The report states that these 50 individuals have given away $832 billion on various philanthropic causes. While $503 billion are from Foundation endowments, the rest have been in the form of donations. The ranking was formulated considering the total philanthropic value – value of assets today along with the sum of gifts or distributions to date. Only 13 individuals in this list are alive.

In terms of nationality, the philanthropists came from five countries. Majority (39) are from the US followed by the UK (5), highlighting a wide gap. China holds the third position with three individuals, India has two and Portugal and Switzerland boost one individual each. New York was termed as the philanthropy capital of the world as 10 out of the 50 foundations were based there.

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On an average, most foundations were close to 60 years, with Tata’s being the oldest, set in 1892. Tencent founder Pony Ma Huateng’s foundation created in 2016, was the youngest in the list. Overall the top 50 individuals collectively contributed US$30bn or 6 per cent of their total endowments as annual grants. However, the report also highlights Mackenzie Scott, former wife of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, to have donated most ever in a single year by a living donor. Scott gave away $8.5 billion directly to charities entrusting them to spend in causes they deemed fit.

While education and healthcare continued to dominate the social causes these foundations supported, EdelGive Foundation’s executive chairperson Vidya Shah said she was seeing changes in philanthropic strategy. For instance, foundations and donors giving greater autonomy to their funding partners. Giving the example of Mackenzie Scott’s donation decision, Shah said, “You give the NGOs freedom to spend it in a way they deem fit as they are the experts and know best where the need gap is, and this is cause agnostic.” The other way was focus on developing and nurturing tech based solutions, and the third was focus on environment and climate change. “But even in education and health, we are seeing foundations looking at focusing on systematic changes,” Shah said.

Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of Hurun Report, said: “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.” He also pointed out that many philanthropic efforts were lead by the second generation rather than the first. For instance, Ford Foundation was created by Henry Ford’s son Edsel Ford.

Hoogewerf believed that the stories of the philanthropists over the century would motivate current wealthy individuals. “The world today has probably 7,500 dollar billionaires, up 1,000 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. However, 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,” he said.

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