Famous philanthropists

The secret to living is giving. That is to say, by contributing to the well-being of others, our communities and the world at large, we find more meaning out of life. Many high profile people have learned this lesson, choosing to donate their financial resources to the people and causes that need support.

Take Tony Robbins, for instance. For years, Tony has given to others. From leading the 100 Million Meals Challenge with Feeding America, helping to provide a quarter of a billion meals to those in need, to working with Operation Underground Railroad to prevent child trafficking, Tony’s learned that the key to fulfillment is not receiving, but giving.

In 1991, Tony founded The Tony Robbins Foundation. The Tony Robbins Foundation has awarded over 2,000 grants and other resources to health and human services organizations, implemented curriculum in 1,600 plus correctional facilities, gathered thousands of young leaders from around the world with its teen programs and helps provide millions of meals globally each year.

These efforts are incredible, but Tony isn’t the only person looking to make a positive impact. These famous philanthropists have earned big, and are using their financial resources to spread change.

Bill Gates


Of all the celebrity philanthropists, Bill Gates is referred to most often. The founder of Microsoft has long made headlines for his charitable donations, in part because Gates himself is worth so much. Estimated to be worth nearly $94 billion, Gates has given away nearly $50 billion over the years to various nonprofits. Gates is someone who realizes that people who are incredibly wealthy owe it to the world to give back. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was founded in 2000 to “improve the quality of life for individuals around the world.” With billions of dollars to use, the foundation has done everything from providing educational resources in Chicago to healthcare support in Nigeria.

Oprah Winfrey

Of the world’s top philanthropists, Oprah Winfrey is perhaps one of the most impressive, because she truly fits the term “self-made.” After growing up in a poor household in Mississippi and enduring sexual abuse, she still managed to overcome the many obstacles she faced and found major success. Not only has Winfrey brought to light the needs of people around the globe through her talk show and reporting endeavors, but she’s donated millions of dollars through the Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation, which took on most of the responsibilities of the Angel Network, and the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation, contributing more than $140 million to The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. She’s also supported causes like Time’s Up, N Street Village and the Museum of African American History and Culture.


Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg found success at a young age, creating the website that would become Facebook while still in college. Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have pledged to give away 99% of their wealth to charity over the course of their lives. Currently, that’s around $46 billion. Together they found the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which aims to provide equal opportunities for people while unlocking human potential. By providing funding to science, justice and education initiatives, the Chan-Zuckerberg family plans to make a world of difference.

J.K. Rowling

When you think of wildly successful authors, J.K. Rowling comes to mind. The Harry Potter writer has captivated people all over the world with her spellbinding characters. From books, movies, theme parks and merchandise sales, Rowling was once a billionaire, but due to her numerous charitable donations, she’s now worth closer to $650 million. Her charity, Lumos, named for a spell in her Harry Potter series, aims to help children who have been wrongfully separated from their families and placed in orphanages. Lumos supports child welfare programming through supporting various education, health and social care system reform.


Diane von Furstenberg

The fashion designer responsible for the creation and popularity of the wrap dress,Diane von Furstenberg has become one of the greatest philanthropists in the fashion industry. As the director of The Diller – von Furstenberg Family Foundation, von Furstenberg has helped generate millions of dollars to help organizations in the public spaces, community building, education, arts, human rights and environmental sectors.

Warren Buffett

Since the year 2000, Warren Buffett has given more than $46 billion to charity. As the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett is believed to be worth roughly $84 billion, making him the second richest person in the world after Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Buffett has given portions of his wealth to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Sherwood Foundation and the NoVo Foundation.


The biggest philanthropists in the world have ample resources at their disposal. They have the funds to make a big difference and the social capital to spread their messaging. You might not have these same resources at your disposal, but you can still create a positive impact. Look for ways that you can give back to your local community or causes that speak to you. Can you set aside a small portion of your paycheck toward a worthy cause? Start giving back today and feel a new sense of fulfillment.

Ready to make your contribution?

Although not all contributions can be as large as the ones made by famous philanthropists, they are still important. Learn how you can give back.