With $100 billion you could buy about 240 Boeing 747s, which would easily give you the world's largest fleet of aircraft. Or you could buy out countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka or Luxembourg, whose GDP is much lower than $100 billion. Or like Jamsetji Tata, the founder of the Tatas' business empire, you could give that money away in philanthropy to become known to posterity as the most generous giver in the world. While Jamsetji Tata passed away in 1904, the value of his endowments has put him top of the list of philanthropists who have given away the largest sums in recent history. Here's what it means.
How Jamshetji Tata gave away his money?
The principal investment holding company for the Tata businesses, called Tata Sons, has about two-thirds, or 66 percent, of its equity share capital held by philanthropic trusts that "support education, health, livelihood generation, and art and culture". The biggest two of these trusts are the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and Sir Ratan Tata Trust.
According to the 2021 EdelGive Hurun Philanthropists Of the Century report, Jamsetji "made his fortune in the 1870s after floating the Central India Spinning Weaving and Manufacturing Company and set up the JN Tata Endowment in 1892 for higher education". It was the JN Tata Endowment that was the beginning of Tata Trusts.
The total donations made by Jamsetji Tata have been computed at $102.4 billion, making him "the world's biggest philanthropist of the last century".
The creators of the rankings worked out what they termed the "total philanthropic value" of donations, which was "calculated as the value of the assets today together with the sum of gifts or distributions to date". The figures were then adjusted for inflation to arrive at the value of donations made.
Who are the other major givers?
According to the EdelGive Hurun report, the top 50 givers globally in the last century have come from just a total of five countries. The US expectedly leads the list of such individual donors with 39 names followed by five from the UK, three from China, two from India and one each from Portugal and Switzerland.
The total wealth given away by the top 50 donors is a massive $832 billion with their various foundations holding more than $500 billion of that value.
Software mogul Bill Gates and his wife Melinda Gates, who recently announced they will divorce, are second on the list of biggest givers with a total of $76.4 billion. Of this, close to $50 billion has been placed at the disposal of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, globally one of the leading names behind philanthropic causes. Their cumulative donations amount to another $24.8bn.
Henry Wellcome, the American British pharmaceutical entrepreneur, has total donations amounting to $56.7 billion and is third on the list followed by US film tycoon Howard Hughes. American investor Warren Buffett, who started the Giving Pledge in 2010 with fellow billionaire Bill Gates, is the fifth on the list of last century's greatest givers with total donations of $37.4 billion. You can see the complete list here.
Azim Premji, the former Wipro chairman and founder of the trust of the same name, is the second Indian on the list. He comes in at No.12 with cumulative donations of $22 billion till date. He is No.7 on the list for the largest annual donations and has signed the Giving Pledge.
What are the most popular causes backed by these givers?
Education and healthcare were the two pet causes of last century's 50 biggest givers, followed by social welfare, arts and culture and Research and development, in that order. Education was listed as the primary cause for the Tata Trusts with at least 10 other philanthropists, too, devoting their focus in this area. Healthcare, too, had a total of 11 philanthropists who adopted it as their primary cause.
Which is the most generous country in the world?
The US is the most well-represented country on the list while New York City had the highest concentration of such philanthropists, counting 10 people among the top-50 givers. But which country is the most generous in the world in terms of how much charity is done by its common citizens? For the answer to that question, we can look at the World Giving Index compiled by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF). According to the report for 2021, Indonesia is the most generous country in the world.
According to a survey carried out by CAF, "more than eight in 10 Indonesians donated money this year and the country's rate of volunteering is more than three times the global average".
India ranked No.14 on the index, the top five of which include only one developed country, Australia at No.5. Kenya, Nigeria and Myanmar, respectively, occupied positions No.2, 3 and 4.