It’s Official: A Billionaire’s Number One Interest Is Philanthropy

The 2015/2016 WealthX survey has shown that the world’s richest people are most passionate about philanthropy.

You might think that billionaires are most interested in sailing through the Caribbean, or shopping for something to wear to Cannes. But, according to a new survey, most of the world’s richest people say that philanthropy is their top interest, passion and hobby.

The WealthX Billionaire Census is an annual comprehensive study of the global billionaire population. To be more specific; it’s a survey of individuals with a net worth of US$1 billion or more (about R13.6 billion). It outlines the “assets, lifestyle, motivations and social networks of the world’s wealthiest individuals”. And the 2015/2016 report details the life cycle of the average billionaire, from education and accumulation of wealth to philanthropy and transfer of wealth. 2015 had 2 473 billionaires, with a total wealth of $7.7 trillion – in case you were wondering.

Interestingly, the 2015/2016 report showed that philanthropy came up tops in terms of the individuals’ interests, passions and hobbies, with 56.3% of billionaires saying it was their primary passion. “More than 56% of total billionaires either undertake or are interested in pursuing philanthropic activities. This is partly due to a rise in the global coverage and recognition of the philanthropic endeavours of billionaires such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett,” says the report, “The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Giving Pledge have instilled a sense of humanitarian responsibility in billionaires to use their vast wealth to make a difference in the world.” It certainly goes to show that the richest in the world are being influenced by the trends of social innovation and corporate philanthropy. And by a substantial lead too; the second and third spots went to travel (31% of billionaires) and art (28.7% of billionaires).

But are the billionaires putting their money where their interests are? According to Forbes’ 2015 list of the Top 50 Givers in America, which reveals who gave away the most money in 2015, and how much they’ve donated over their lifetimes, many of the world’s wealthy are giving away substantial parts of their fortune. The usual suspects in the top 10 – Bill & Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett and George Soros – have given away in their lifetimes 41%, 39% and 49% of their current net worth, respectively. But Forbes also mentions others who could be a little more free-handed. “Michael Bloomberg has donated $4.22 billion in all, but that’s only about 9% of his $45 billion fortune. Similarly, the Walton Family Foundation has disbursed $5.65 billion, but that’s less than 5% of the family’s combined fortune of $123.3 billion,” says Forbes.

In South Africa, wealthy business leaders echo the trend of giving, showing they, too, hold a great interest in philanthropy. This is evident in The CEO SleepOut, which sees business leaders spend a night outdoors, raising funds and empathy for the homeless. The participants pledge a substantial financial amount to the event, which is awarded to the event’s beneficiary partners. As 2016 CEO SleepOut participant, Deon Viljoen, from Alexander Forbes put it: “If you are in a privileged position to bring about positive social change, then it is your duty to do so.”

The good news is that the more that the world’s richest people commit to using their profits for purpose, the more that trend will trickle down – inspiring other business leaders to do the same. We should be able to look forward to an even bigger philanthropic interest in the future. “Of course, it’s not just the money that counts. What matters is that the leaders are using their profits and influence to find innovative and creative solutions to change as well,” says CEO SleepOut Founder, Ali Gregg. What we need is not just a collection of money, but a meeting of minds.

– By The Philanthropic Collection –


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where we tailor haute-couture brands for philanthropy.


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all creating conscious capital for humanity.