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 in 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+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 yet understand that their wealth comes with a measure of responsibility and that giving back is an important part of their fame. They are using their financial resources to spread change and contribute in areas where they are passionate.
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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. As top philanthropists, Bill and Melinda have not only found a way to make the world a better place, but they’ve also developed a common goal of giving back that helps strengthen their connection as a couple.
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 find 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. Her foundation 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. Oprah has shown that famous philanthropists don’t have to come from wealthy families and that they can choose the causes that have the most meaning for them.
Mark Zuckerberg found success at a young age by 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, making them some of the biggest philanthropists on the planet. 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. Like Melinda and Bill Gates, this couple has shown that they understand unconditional love and compassion makes both relationships and philanthropy work.
When you think of wildly successful authors, J.K. Rowling always 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. However, due to her numerous charitable donations, she’s now worth closer to $650 million and has become one of the world’s most famous philanthropists. 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. Rowling remains one of the most outspoken celebrity philanthropists who backs up her monetary contributions with efforts to enact political change.
Diane von Furstenberg
The fashion designer responsible for the creation and popularity of the wrap dress, Diane von Furstenberg has become one of the biggest philanthropists in the fashion industry. She and her husband, media mogul and founder of the USA network Barry Diller, have pledged to give over $1 billion in charitable contributions. As the director of The Diller – von Furstenberg Family Foundation, von Furstenberg has already helped generate millions of dollars to help organizations in the public spaces, community building, education, arts, human rights and environmental sectors.
Since the year 2000, Warren Buffett has given more than $46 billion to charity and is commonly known as one of the world’s top philanthropists. 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. Along with his incredible generosity, Buffett is also known for his humility and commitment to living simply, showing that he has strong values and knows what it takes to create an extraordinary life.
Hedge fund manager George Soros landed on the famous philanthropists list by transferring the bulk of his wealth – over $23 billion – to his charitable organization, the Open Society Foundations. He’s been giving charitably since 1979, though, and truly knows the importance of never-ending contribution. His international group of charities works in more than 100 different countries and donates time, talent and money to projects involving public health, refugee relief and scholarships for underprivileged children.
Politician, author and now one of the country’s top philanthropists, Michael Bloomberg is the sixth richest person in the United States. He uses this wealth in a way that is familiar to him – by helping to improve city governments around the world. In 2018 alone, Bloomberg donated $767 million. Reportedly considering a presidential run, Bloomberg has pledged $1.8 billion to his alma mater Johns Hopkins University, which will be paid out this year. Bloomberg is the perfect example of famous philanthropists who clearly understand that living a fulfilling life is only possible when you contribute beyond yourself.
It’s nearly impossible to make a list of the biggest philanthropists without including Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon. His ability to turn situations to his advantage and build what is arguably the most disruptive business in history has given him immense opportunities to effect change. The richest man in the world, Bezos has been criticized for his lack of charitable giving in the past and has taken that to heart. In 2018, he became one of the world’s top philanthropists by giving over $2 billion through his Bezos Day One Fund, mostly to nonprofits that help homeless families. He’s also in the process of creating nonprofit preschools in low-income communities. The son of a Cuban immigrant, Bezos has successfully connected a cause to his charitable giving, an important step for anyone who really wants to get the most out of giving back.
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.
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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.