2014 was the year of the mega-grants in Hong Kong, while the trend of giving to charities overseas and  in mainland China continued.

Despite only modest growth in the number of million dollar gifts last year in Hong Kong, the total value of donations almost trebled. Five mega-grants accounted for about $2bn or three quarters of the overall value.

While most gifts were still in the $1m-$2m bracket, a larger percentage of gifts were identified in the $2m-$10m and the $100m+ categories than in previous years. Notable among them was the award from Joseph Tsai, co-founder of Alibaba Group, who donated $1.18bn to set up his private philanthropic trust. This gift alone was worth more than the total value of donations in 2013.

Individuals, corporations and foundations contributed a very similar proportion of gifts in terms of numbers over the past two years, but the influence of mega-grants meant that the value of individual gifts rose sharply in 2014.

Almost all gifts originated from Hong Kong itself. But fewer gifts were bestowed domestically in 2014, with a swing towards charities in China and overseas. Indeed, a small number of the overseas gifts (5% of the total) comprised the biggest share of the donation value, at almost 60%.

Higher education and government continued to be the most popular causes in terms of number of donations, though overseas organisations and local foundations received much larger amounts.   

Note that gifts from donors in Hong Kong to charities in mainland China, and gifts from donors in mainland China to charities in Hong Kong, may be included in both databases and thus there is a risk of some overlap in certain categories of gifts.

Number and total

Five mega-grants fed a substantial rise in million dollar donations in 2014.



Total value of donations worth $1m+


Total number of $1m+ donations

Hong Kong saw 128 donations worth a million dollars or more[1] in 2014, with a total value of $2.67bn. Both  figures were an increase over 2013 levels, though the 185% jump in the total value was accompanied by only modest growth of 7% in the number of donations.

Five mega-grants boosted the value of million dollar donations in 2014:

· Joseph Tsai, the co-founder of Alibaba Group, donated $1.18bn to set up his private philanthropic trust[2], with this single gift alone worth more than the total value of donations in 2013.

· The $350m gift by the Morningside Foundation to the Harvard School of Public Health represented the largest single gift in the university’s history.

· The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust gave $167m to The Chinese University of Hong Kong to establish a teaching hospital on its Shatin campus.

· In celebration of its tenth anniversary, the Galaxy Entertainment Group set up a corporate foundation with a pledge of $167m[3] to give back to the Macau community.

· Ronald Chao, the Vice-Chairman of family-owned Novel Enterprises, donated $150m to establish the Bai Xian Education Foundation, which aims to nurture future Asian leaders through scholarship programmes among top universities in Asia.  







[1] In Hong Kong, the cut-off is set at HK$7.5m (or about US$961,500) or RMB6m (or about US$980,000).

[2] Tsai injected 15m share options of the Alibaba Group into the intended trust. The options were held by the SymAsia Foundation Limited, a non-governmental organisation based in Singapore, awaiting Tsai’s instruction to designate the recipient charitable trust. SymAsia does not beneficially own any shares. The value is calculated by the closing share price of US$103.94 on 31 December 2014 less the option price of US$25.

[3] $39m was provided as the initial capital of the foundation. Galaxy Entertainment Group would later commit $128m to the foundation.

Average size of million dollar donations

Average donations were larger in value, though this was largely due to five sizeable gifts.

All statistical measures point to an increase in the average size of donations in 2014. The mean donation was $20.9m, versus $7.8m for 2013. However, the mean can be very sensitive to outliers, and in this case was inflated by five mega-gifts.

The median (the middle value when all are placed in order) was $2.4m compared to $1.8m in the previous year. The mode (the most frequent figure) rose to $1.6m (or RMB10m, a natural psychological threshold for high-net-worth giving to China) from $1.3m (or HK$10m, the corresponding threshold for giving in Hong Kong). There were 17 and 16 gifts recorded at the levels of RMB10m and HK$10m respectively. 




in 2014


in 2013


in 2012



in 2014


in 2013


in 2012



in 2014


in 2013


in 2012

Value of million dollar donations

Five mega-grants accounted for about $2bn, or three quarters of the total donation value.

Some 44% of million dollar gifts (56) in Hong Kong were in the $1m-$2m category in 2014, a slight decline from 2013 levels. But gifts in the $2m-$10m bracket increased by 4% to 39% (or 50), as a few donors seemingly made more favourable decisions on funding long-term projects and capital investment.

In the $10m-$100m category, 17 gifts were made (13% of the total), similar to 2013. Some 4% of gifts  were $100m or over, doubling the figure versus 2013. These five mega-grants accounted for about $2bn, or three quarters of the total donation value. 


Source of million dollar donations

The number of gifts from individuals, corporations and foundations was broadly stable in 2014, but the value of individual grants rose sharply.

The sources of million dollar giving remained relatively stable compared to 2013 levels in terms of the number of gifts made. In 2014, individuals contributed 34% of gifts, while corporations contributed 46% and foundations 20%. Individual female donors remained in the minority; only three cases were recorded in 2014, a slight decline from five in 2013.

By contrast, the values contributed by each donor category changed significantly. Individual donations as a share of the overall total jumped sharply, from 12% in 2013 to 56% in 2014, buoyed by the mega-grants from Joseph Tsai, Ronald Chao and others. But the value of foundation donations dropped considerably from 49% to 19%, while corporate donations fell from 39% to 25%. 

There were 71 unique million dollar donors in 2014. Most gave a single grant, though some gave more, such as the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, which made 32 gifts in 2014. As a corporate foundation, the Trust has given a very similar amount of million dollar gifts each year.




19% of total value in 2014




56% of total value in 2014




25% of total value in 2014

Location of million dollar donations

All but two of the million dollar donations originated from Hong Kong itself.

Hong Kong is small, so close analysis of the location of donors is not worthwhile. Almost all identified gifts originated in Hong Kong. One of the exceptions was the gift of advanced equipment and software licences, valued at $1.8m, by US-based Intel Corporation. The other was a legacy left by Guanzhong Wu, a leading Chinese contemporary artist, who gave 25 of his art pieces, estimated at $13m, to the Hong Kong Art Museum as a permanent exhibit. 

Recipients of million dollar donations

There were more unique beneficiaries in 2014, with most gifts given domestically, though gifts to mainland China were on the rise. Overseas charities received the greatest donation value.

A total of 95 organisations received at least one million dollar donation in 2014, 12 more than the previous year. These organisations included operating charities, charitable foundations and government units. Some 80 organisations received a single donation of a million dollars or more in 2014, while 15 enjoyed more than one such donation. The University of Hong Kong topped the list for grants, receiving eight separate gifts in 2014, mostly for establishing endowed professorships.  

About 59% of the number of gifts went to organisations in Hong Kong, a decline of 4% compared with 2013 levels. But these gifts represented only 27% of the total value of donations, a sharp drop of 33% from the previous year.

Mainland charities and government units received 37% of the total number of gifts, demonstrating slight growth of 3% compared with 2013. But again these gifts accounted for just 14% of the total donation value, a considerable fall of 20%.

Overseas organisations enjoyed the lion’s share of donations in 2014; although only receiving 5% of gifts by number, these made up almost 60% of the total value. The two largest, made by Joseph Tsai and the Morningside Foundation, were to a non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Singapore and Harvard University in the US respectively. The remaining overseas gifts went to universities in the US and UK, with grants ranging from $3m to $20m. 


total recipients

in 2014

Distribution of million dollar donations

Higher education and government remained old favourites, but gifts to overseas organisations and local foundations grew considerably in popularity.

Higher education and government continued to attract the highest number of gifts in 2014, between them accounting for 73 of the 128 million dollar donations. In particular, higher education recorded 48 gifts, a significant increase from 34 in 2013.

The overseas sector[4] saw total donations valued at $1.58bn, the highest among the sectors. This was followed by foundations, which received five gifts totalling about $322m. Causes related to human services, arts, culture and humanities, health, and public and societal benefit appeared to receive a similar level of support from donors in 2014 as in 2013.

However, some causes received less attention last year. There were no million dollar gifts recorded for religious causes, despite this having been the third largest beneficiary in terms of donation value in 2013. The same was true of the environment. Multi-purpose charities such as the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals and Po Leung Kuk also received fewer million dollar gifts in 2014. And the value of gifts to education – a cause traditionally well catered for in Hong Kong – declined by 4%.






128 donations of $1m+




6 donations of $1m+




5 donations of $1m+


Higher Education


48 donations of $1m+


Human services


17 donations of $1m+




25 donations of $1m+


Arts, Culture & humanities


13 donations of $1m+




5 donations of $1m+


Education (not universities)


2 donations of $1m+


Public & societal benefit


3 donations of $1m+




4 donations of $1m+

[4] The 'Overseas' sector covers all donations sent to organisations outside Hong Kong, Macau and China.