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Financial Planning > Charitable Giving

Where World’s Million-Dollar Donors Put Their Money

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The total value and the number of $1 million-plus gifts by wealthy donors across the globe both increased in 2013, according to the second international Million Dollar Donors Report released this month by Coutts in association with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Philanthropic individuals and organizations in seven regions around the world gave 1,995 gifts totaling $26.3 billion last year, up from $19 billion in 2012.

The value of gifts of $1 million or more rose in each region studied.

The report analyzed the number, size and recipients of $1 million-plus gifts given in 2013 by individuals, foundations and corporations in the U.S., the U.K., Russia, the Middle East (Gulf Cooperation Council), China, Hong Kong and, for the first time, Singapore.

The report uncovered several global giving trends.

Education got the most gifts from million-dollar donors last year, $9.1 billion, or 34% of the total value.

Foundations were the second most popular destination for million-dollar donations, receiving $4.8 billion in 2013, up from $2.9 billion the year before.

Individuals gave more money in total than foundations and corporations, 45% of the $26.3 billion donated across all regions.

A majority of million-dollar donations was directed within the regions where they originated. Yet overseas giving increased significantly in 2013, rising to the third most popular destination in terms of dollars given.

This growth was influenced by several huge donations to overseas causes, the report said.

Coutts noted in a statement that the nature and structure of philanthropy vary considerably by region, with data on giving more accessible in some regions than in others.

Accordingly, it said, the report should not be used to compare giving from region to region, but as a resource for understanding similarities and differences in trends in philanthropy around the globe.

Following are key findings for the seven regions examined in the report. The Gates Foundation, led by Bill Gates, donated $1.8 billion to the WHO (and Warren Buffett gave $20 million to the Gates Foundation). (Photo: AP)


  • The total value of U.S. million dollar-plus giving in 2013 — 1,173 donations amounting to $17 billion going to 805 recipients — rose to its highest level since 2008 because of some very large donations.
  • More than a fifth of the million-dollar donations recorded in 2013 comprised gifts of $10 million or more.
  • Three mega donors led the way in 2013: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s $1.8 billion gift to the World Health Organization; Mark Zuckerberg and Pricilla Chan’s $1 billion to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Warren Buffett’s $20 million gift to the Gates Foundation.
  • Giving at the mega level grew by $3 billion last year, even though there were fewer million-dollar donors than in the previous year.
  • Individuals gave the highest proportion of the total value of donations worth $1 million or more, but foundations gave a higher number of donations of that size.
  • The total value of foundation giving held steady from the previous year, but corporate giving fell.
  • Higher education was the most popular cause, receiving 43% of the total value, up from 40% in 2012.
  • Million dollar-plus giving to higher education grew significantly from $5.6 billion in 2012 to $7.3 billion in 2013, a 28% increase.
  • There was also a significant increase in the value of donations going overseas: 29 gifts totaling $2.1 billion.


  • Total gifts amounted to £1.4 billion ($2.2 billion) from 166 donors to 241 charities in 2013
  • The number of donations of £1 million or more increased by almost 50% in 2013 over the previous year, but the rise in the total value was smaller because of more donations at the £1 million level and none greater than £100 million.
  • Foundations gave the largest number of £1 million-plus donations, and also contributed the highest proportion of the total value.
  • Gifts by individuals fell from 32% of the total value in 2012 to 18% last year — likely a result of a shift in the method of giving.
  • Higher education and foundations were the most popular recipients, receiving 41% and 23% of the total value, respectively.

Oztozhenka Street in Moscow.


  • Some 126 $1 million-plus donations totaling $1 billion in 2013 represented a huge increase over the 2012’s 35 donations amounting to $239 million.
  • The study accounted for the rise by the fact that data on corporations and corporate foundations were gathered for the first time.
  • Corporations gave the most gifts, but individuals contributed a larger proportion of the total value: $555 million, or 55%, vs. $382 million, or 38%.
  • Foundations donated $73 million, 7% of the total.
  • The most popular recipients were foundations, government and human services.

Middle East (GCC)

  • Total donations of $1 million or more amounted to $1.8 billion in 38 gifts.
  • Although million-dollar donations came from virtually all the GCC countries — United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — two-thirds originated in the UAE.
  • The Abu Dhabi Fund for Development five-year grant of $1.3 billion was the biggest gift by far, going to the Kingdom of Morocco as part of the UAE’s contribution to the Gulf Development Fund initiative.
  • Most million-dollar donations, $1.7 billion, supported causes and organizations outside the GCC countries — an exception among the regions studied, where the focus was primarily internal.
  • Overseas gifts went to disaster relief in Syria, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Haiti and Madagascar; humanitarian assistance; and education.
  • Foundations gave the most gifts last year, but the total value of donations by corporations was considerably higher because of the UAE’s contribution.

 A stock board in Shanghai. (Photo: AP)


(Coutts noted that “China” referred to mainland China. See note on Hong Kong below.)

  • The total value of 208 million-dollar donations in 2013 came to $2.7 billion, more than double the 2012 figure, mainly owing to a $1.4 billion donation by HNA Group, which offers services in air transportation, real estate, retailing, financial services, tourism and logistics.
  • That gift went to the Hainan Liberation Commonwealth Foundation, an HNA Group foundation that supports disaster relief, poverty alleviation, charitable relief and public welfare activities.
  • Corporations and corporate foundations were the primary donor type, providing 72% of the number and 85% of the total value of gifts of $1 million or more.
  • Giving to foundations dominated last year’s million-dollar donations, 72% of the total value, on the strength of HNA Group’s gift.
  • Higher education was the second biggest recipient of large gifts in 2013, and government, in the form of government-administered charities, was the third largest recipient.

Hong Kong

(Coutts noted that million-dollar gifts in Hong Kong seemed different in important ways from gifts in mainland China, and so were addressed separately report.)

  • Both the number and the value of million-dollar donations increased in 2013 over 2012, up 15% and 7%, respectively, to 120 gifts amounting to $935 million.
  • The number of gifts to mainland China also increased last year.
  • The La Ka Shing Foundation made the two largest donations in 2013: a grant of $192 million to build the Tsz Shan Monastery in Tai Po, Hong Kong, and another of $130 million to establish the Technion Guangdong Institute of Technology in Shantou, China.
  • Corporations made the most donations, but private foundations gave a larger proportion of the total amount, 49%.
  • All but one donation in 2013 originated in Hong Kong, the exception a Paris-based company with a big operation in Hong Kong.
  • Higher education was the most popular focus on donations, receiving 34 contributions amounting to $234 million.

Harbor in Singapore.


  • Singapore, included in the study for the first time in 2013, demonstrated a well-established culture of major giving.
  • The average size of donations of $1 million or more was $18.8 million in 2013.
  • All told, 38 donors of million-dollar gifts contributed $713 million.
  • Corporations and corporate foundations were the primary donor type, providing 74% of the number and 77% of the total value of $1 million and up gifts: $547 million.
  • Foundations and individual donors contributed $104 million and $62 million, respectively, or 14.5% and 8.5% of the total value of million dollar gifts.
  • The most popular causes were higher education and public and societal benefit.
  • All 93 million-dollar-plus recipients were Singapore based.

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