This report identifies charitable donations worth $1m or more that were made during the calendar year 2015, either by donors in the US and the Middle East (GCC), or to charities based in these countries. The report also identifies all known charitable donations worth £1m or more that were made either by UK donors or to UK-based charities during the calendar year 2015. This year, we have included commentary on the richness and variety of philanthropy across continental Europe for the first time.

In the US, data on million dollar giving has been collected as part of the Million Dollar List since 2000 and is available at; and in the UK, the Coutts Million Pound Donor Report has been published since 2008. Data for the Middle East (GCC) was first collected in 2012 for the 2013 edition of this report.

Almost all the data discussed in this report was gathered from publicly available documents such as media coverage and charity annual reports and accounts, as a number of profiled countries do not have tax or other official records of such giving. Some additional data was provided by donors, as well as by charities in receipt of this level of donation – with the consent of their donors.

What is included?

We include donations made by individuals, foundations and corporations for all regions. We include corporate foundations under the larger ‘corporations’ category. Foundations may include both private foundations (where the founder or a family member is still present to direct grant decisions), and professional foundations (where the founder is no longer present to direct such decisions), as well as charitable trusts.

We include million dollar and million pound donations to charitable foundations and trusts because they are irrevocably committed to be spent for the public good. However, we recognise that including such figures risks ‘double counting’ when the original sum put into the foundation is added to the value of grants distributed over time from that same pot.

Although social investing or impact investing are related to the concepts of philanthropy, they are not considered donations and are not included in our data.

Categorising donations

The charitable subsectors are based on the US National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities – Core Codes (NTEE-CC) and in line with the classifications used in the Million Dollar List compiled by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Though some definitions travel better than others from country to country, we decided to retain this typology to enable cross-national analysis. Further information is online at

Since its inclusion in this report, the Middle East (GCC) has been unusual in that most recipients of donations have been in a different country to the donor – and therefore categorised as ‘overseas’. This year, we have therefore applied a secondary subcategory to better identify the purpose of the donation.

Arts, Culture & Humanities

(e.g., museums, theatres, public broadcasting)

Educational Institutions

(e.g., K‐12 schools, libraries, scholarship funds)

Includes all organisations whose primary function is to educate, except those that focus on post‐secondary education.


(e.g., conservation funds, animal shelters, climate protection, zoos)

Includes any organisations focused on environmental issues, sustainability, and animal rights and protection.


(e.g., family foundations, corporate foundations, donor‐advised funds)

Includes private and family foundations, as well as those associated with corporations.


(e.g., municipalities, federal agencies)


(e.g., independent hospitals, nursing homes, medical research centres)

Higher Education

(e.g., universities, university hospitals, university research centres)

Includes all colleges and universities, as well as their associated non-profit organisations, such as medical and research facilities.

Human Services

(e.g., poverty prevention, crime and delinquency, food aid, child services)

Services that provide direct assistance and intervention to people such as youth development, domestic disaster relief, public safety and crime, employment, and housing organisations.

Recreation and sports organizations also fall under this heading, unless country context implies otherwise.


(e.g., an organisation based in the country in question that operates primarily outside that country)

For example, the US database would include a gift given to an international development non-profit based in Washington, DC that conducts programs in many countries outside the US. If a donor in China gives a gift to a Beijing‐based organisation that operates primarily in Africa, that gift would also be categorized as international in the China database).

The exception to this is the UK, where the ‘International’ category is used to refer to funding for international development, regardless of the location of the recipient charity. The reason for this difference is to enable year-on-year comparisons and trend analysis within the UK region. The UK Million Pound Donors Report (produced since 2008 by Coutts in association with the University of Kent) has always used ‘International’ to refer to international development.


(e.g., all organisations headquartered outside of the country in question)

For example, the US database would categorise a gift given from a US donor to an organisation based in another country as “Overseas,” regardless of the mission of that organisation. If a donor in China gives a gift to Harvard University in the US, that gift would be categorised as “Overseas” in the China database, and “Higher Education” in the US database.

Public/Society Benefit

(e.g., community foundations, independent social/scientific research).

Includes civil rights, social science research, science and technology, and community foundations.

Religious Organisations

(e.g., churches, synagogues, mosques, religious organisations)


These terms are used when the organisation’s mission or purpose is not known, when it falls outside the definition of any other subsector, or when one gift is made to multiple recipients with different subsectors.

Other regions featured in previous report

Data on Russia, China, and Hong Kong was first collected in 2012 for use in The 2013 Coutts Million Dollar Donors Report. Data on Singapore was first collected in 2013 for use in The 2014 Coutts Million Dollar Donors Report. To our knowledge, 2014 was the first time that this data had been collected by anyone for South Africa.

For countries whose gifts are not usually given in pounds or dollars, we selected the following cut-off points, all approximately equal to US$1m in 2014:

  • Russia - 40 million roubles
  • China - 6.119m RMB (Chinese Yuan)
  • Hong Kong - 7.5m Hong Kong dollars and 6m RMB (Chinese Yuan)
  • Singapore - 1.5m SGD
  • South Africa - 10m rand.
In order to add to the publicly available data, in Russia and South Africa we surveyed prominent philanthropists, as well as foundations and charities that tend to receive very large donations. Where applicable, we have included pledges for future gifts, and therefore not every gift will have been paid in full to recipient charities. Data about donations made anonymously is included when available.
Major grants to UK-based organisations
The world’s two largest grant-making institutions – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Wellcome Trust - both make grants to UK-based organisations. Due to their unusual size they require special treatment as follows:
Multiple grants from the Wellcome Trust to the same recipient are treated as one combined grant. This particularly affects funding granted to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. In 2015 Oxford received 32 grants from Wellcome, which collectively amounted to £132.71m, while Cambridge received 20 grants from Wellcome totalling £36,993,499.
As The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a US-based foundation, and in order to minimise double counting across the global Coutts reports, donations from this foundation have not been included in the UK data. While occasional double counting is inevitable across the various donor reports, due to the inclusion of money put into foundations and then later paid out in grants worth £1m or more, these generally have minimal impact on the headline and overall statistics. However, the inclusion of the Gates’ Foundation in the UK data would heavily skew the increase in value from 2014 to 2015. If included, the increase in total value would rise from 17% to 22%, which risks misrepresenting year-on-year growth.
The Gates’ Foundation is a known problematic anomaly in studies of philanthropy, due to its unusual size, and we believe its inclusion in the UK data would exacerbate this.