Ever since Dr. Faustus sold his soul to the devil for power, glory and the almighty buck, there has been a culturally entrenched anxiety around wealth. Money makes rich people feel guilty, and less rich people feel righteously indignant. The background music to a glamorous foreground is the relentless, niggling awareness of poverty and need somewhere else. This unsavoury reality is something only the most selfless of us are able to confront head on. Many of us, though, throw guilt-induced money at the soldiers of socialism and hope equality will happen while we get on with our daily lives. Of course, whatever the motivations for the financial support of charitable work, the result is the same. And so the money-throwers are as crucial a part in the quest against deprivation and hardship as the front line warriors.
But the business of charitable giving is a little less clear cut than one might imagine. Giving away money requires administration, manpower, and evaluation of requirement. And all that needs to be paid for. Non-Profit Organisations are entitled to generate ‘profit’, but that profit has to be directed towards sustaining the organisation, and the furtherance of its charitable goals. You may see where problems arise. The vagaries of what exactly it costs to do these two things mean that charities regularly come under the microscope, the salaries of CEOs scrutinised and the distribution of surplus funds minutely audited.
While it might seem a little cynical, then, to evaluate charities based on income, it is in fact an essential task. Understanding where charitable funds lie sleeping make it possible for us to keep a wary eye on where exactly the dollars wake up. So here they are, the ten richest charities in the world today.
10 The Church Commissioners for England: $8.1 billion
This body was established in 1948 to look after the historical property assets of the Church of England. Now, the C of E might not advertise its need with the visual aid of a tired donkey and a hunger ravished young child but, apparently, it is in dire need of the guardianship of a charitable organisation. Not just a charity, but an exempt charity. This means that the Church of England Commissioners are not required to submit to regular external supervision. This sort of arrangement is not uncommon in England and is usually practiced in relation to universities or other organisations deemed to have, internally, a sufficient auditing procedure to ensure compliance with national law. Certainly, the Church Commissioners have been thoroughly transparent in their handling of funds, specifying that the majority of profit pays clergy pensions.
9 Li Ka Shing Foundation: $8.3 billion
This charitable organisation is based in Hong Kong and is the lovingly nurtured project of businessman Li Ka Shing. Ka Shing emerged from a troubled childhood and the early loss of his father. He used his later success to establish this organisation which endows funds to philanthropic projects globally. The organisation has made donations in excess of $1.8 billion, or almost a quarter of its net worth - 90% of which has gone to educational projects.
8 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: $9.2 billion
Robert Wood Johnson established this foundation as a dying act, bequeathing 10,204,377 shares of stock from his company, Johnson & Johnson. The organisation espouses largely domestic goals, with a focus on North America, and is concerned with bettering the health and health care of citizens. The organisation, on average, grants $400 million a year to charitable projects. The current flagship campaign for the company is to reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity in the USA by 2015. The charity has come under some criticism for its conservative position on alcohol distribution and use, but has undertaken indisputably bold and successful ventures in smoking cessation and accessibility to affordance health insurance.
7 Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation: $10 billion
This organisation was established by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 2007, with the stated goals of improving education practice in the UAE. Given than Al Maktoum is Prime Minister of the UAE, and Dubai’s monarch, he’s certainly in a good position to make a dent in the area’s educational problem. Since the charitable organisation was founded, the UAE has seen a significant overhaul of educational practice, including the historic implementation of a scheme for co-education.
6 J. Paul Getty Trust: $10.5 billion
Although Oil Tycoon J. Paul Getty left virtually all of his fortune to the Getty Museum (his own project) upon his death in 1953, legal battles waged over the money until 1982 when the Trust was finally bequeathed the entire sum. The organisation is now the world’s largest art institution whose charitable grants are made to cultural projects. We might be feeling some ethical pangs over the attribution of so much wealth to art, but as Chuck Palahniuk said, “The first step - especially for young people with energy and drive and talent, but not money - the first step to controlling your world is to control your culture. To model and demonstrate the kind of world you demand to live in.”
5 Ford Foundation: $11 billion
This foundation was originally established by the founders of Ford Motor Company but, some time after their death, the organisation sold all shares in the enterprise and became an independent charity. The organisation makes annual grants of around half a million dollars to a wide range of charitable projects, both domestically and globally, with the broad goal of improving human welfare. The good work done by the Ford Foundation cannot be called into question, but a shadow was cast over it by its shenanigans as a money laundering front for the CIA in 1967.
4 Howard Hughes Medical Institute: $16.1 billion
Established in 1953, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute is committed to furthering medical research across a wide variety of fields. The organisation grants an annual average of over $8 million to research projects and additional funds to the ongoing publication of research for the benefit of external medical researchers. Aside from a rather unfortunate tussle with scandal during the Bernard L. Madoff debacle, this organisation is squeaky clean, and an internationally respected charity.
3 Wellcome Trust: $22.1 billion
UK based Wellcome Trust was founded in 1936 to administer the finances of the late Sir. Henry Wellcome, an American born pharmaceutical giant. The Trust sold a quarter of its stocks, in 1986, to the public. Whatever the moral ins and outs of this, the result was an exponential financial growth and a company hugely well equipped to provide substantial development in the field of human and animal medical care. The company’s annual grants are almost $200 million on average, in relation to an endowment of $14.5 billion total.
2 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: $34.6 billion
1 Stichting INGKA Foundation: $36 billion
You might think you’ve never heard of the organisation that tops this particular poll, but you have. It is, essentially, IKEA. The Swedish billionaire owner of Ikea, Ingvar Kamprad, is also the founder of this charity. Its goal is to assist in the arena of architecture and furnishing design, rewarding innovation in the field. This organisation has been slammed on a global scale with The Economist labelling it one of the 'least generous' charitable organisations in the world. After this particular slight in 2006, the Kamprad broadened the goals of the foundation to include aiding the children of developing countries.