Forbes Profiles the World's Biggest Givers

The ranks of the world's most generous philanthropists now include nineteen people who have given at least $1 billion to their foundations or charitable causes, up from fourteen in 2009, Forbes reports.

In its second listing of the world's most generous (in dollar terms) donors, Forbes found that more than two-thirds are from the United States and all but one is a self-made entrepreneur. In creating the list, Forbes did not adjust for inflation, focused on individuals and not extended families, and only counted gifts — not pledges — paid out during a person's lifetime. As a result, some big givers — including Blackstone co-founder Peter Peterson, who has pledged to give $1 billion but has only donated $450 million to date, and SAP co-founder Hans Plattner, whose $900 million in giving in 1998 would easily exceed $1 billion if adjusted for inflation — narrowly missed making the list.

Topping the list by a wide margin was Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who has contributed $28 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. That's more than three times as much as his friend and philanthropic collaborator Warren Buffett, who to date has given more than $8 billion of his enormous fortune to philanthropic causes and organizations, including the Gates Foundation. Last year, Gates and Buffett launched the Giving Pledge as a way to encourage America's wealthiest individuals to commit the majority of their fortunes to charity. To date, sixty-nine individuals or families on the Forbes 400 list have signed the pledge, including ten who have already given $1 billion or more to their foundations or philanthropic causes. Number three on the list is Hungarian-American financier George Soros, who has given some $8 billion to various causes, mostly through his Open Society Foundations, followed by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, who has given almost $7 billion, much of that to or through the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Other members of the group include Carlos Slim Helu ($4 billion, Mexico), the world's richest man; financial magnate George Kaiser ($4 billion, U.S.); homebuilding and insurance tycoon Eli Broad ($2.6 billion, U.S.); technology entrepreneur Azim Premji ($2.1 billion, India); mutual fund tycoon James Stowers ($2 billion, U.S.); NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg ($1.8 billion, U.S.); businessman Li Ka-shing ($1.6 billion, Hong Kong); former savings and loan CEOs Herbert and Marion Sandler ($1.5 billion, U.S.); SAP co-founder Dietmar Hopp ($1.25 billion, Germany); Dell founder Michael Dell ($1.2 billion, U.S.); chemical magnate Jon Huntsman ($1.2 billion, U.S.); media mogul Ted Turner ($1.2 billion, U.S.); SAP co-founder Klaus Tschira ($1.1 billion, Germany); Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen ($1 billion, U.S.); and Stephan Schmidheiny ($1 billion, Switzerland), heir to a Swiss-German industrial fortune.

Luisa Kroll. "The World's Biggest Givers." Forbes 05/19/2011.