JN Tata leads global list of top philanthropists in last 100 years

·5-min read
Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, the Founder of the Tata Group. Photo, courtesy: Tata Sons
Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, the Founder of the Tata Group. Photo, courtesy: Tata Sons

Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, founder of the Tata Group, has been named as the world’s most generous philanthropist in the last century.

JN Tata topped the first EdelGive Hurun Philanthropists of the Century report, which estimates the current value of his donations to be around $102.4 billion.

Tata is the only Indian in the top 10 list. The only other Indian among the top 50 is Azim Premji, former chairman of Wipro, who is ranked 12th.

Bill Gates & Melinda French Gates, Henry Wellcome, Howard Hughes and Warren Buffett make up the top 5, after Tata.

Mackenzie Scott, the former wife of Jeff Bezos, Donated $8.5 billion directly to charities, most ever in a single year by a living donor.

Jamsetji Tata, known for his ventures within the cotton and pig iron industry, set up Tata Iron and Steel Works Company, in Jamshedpur, now known as Tata Steel in Jamshedpur.

He mostly donated to the sectors of education and healthcare.

Founded in 1907, Tata Steel now operates in 26 countries including India, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, and employs around 80,500 people, according to reports.

Premji, who ran Wipro for decades, has pledged to give away at least half of his wealth by signing the Giving Pledge in 2013. He started with a $2.2 billion donation to the Azim Premji Foundation, which focused on education in India. He topped the EdelGive Hurun India Philanthropy List for 2020.

Around the world

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

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

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

With 38 philanthropists, the United States topped the list of countries, followed by the United Kingdom with 5 and China with 3.

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

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.

Warren Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates, in an interview, on May 5, 2015. Photo: Lacy O'Toole/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images
Warren Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates, in an interview, on May 5, 2015. Photo: Lacy O'Toole/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

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.

While 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.

The report says, ‘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$50 billion in a single year, led by Elon Musk with$151 billion, on the back of the rise of e-cars, whilst e-commerce billionaires Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Colin Huang of Pinduoduo added$50 billion each. At this rate, expect to see fifty or more break through the $100 billion mark within the next five years.

How many billionaires are there in the world?

The report adds: ‘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 1,000, but the actual number is probably closer to 2,500.”

EdelGive Foundation is a grant-making organisation, helping build and expand philanthropy in India by funding and supporting the growth of high-calibre, small to mid-sized NGOs committed to empowering vulnerable children, women and communities.

Hurun Report promotes entrepreneurship through its lists and research. Best-known for its rich list series, 500 most valuable companies series and unicorn series, Hurun last year hit 8 billion views on the Hurun brand, up 50% year on year.

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