According to Forbes, the most philanthropic men and women in the world are not millionaires but billionaires. Bill and Melinda Gates top the list, having given away a total of $28 billion as of 2012. They are followed, in descending order, by Warren Buffet, George Soros, Mark Zuckerberg and the Walton family. Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is also high on the list.
In addition to famous billionaires, venture capital firms lend money to innovative entrepreneurs. According to Entrepreneur magazine, the top five VC firms granting seed money and early stage investment funds in 2013 were Andreessen Horowitz, New Enterprise Associates, Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Lightspeed Venture Partners. Together, these five firms invested over $28 billion in over 250 ventures in 2013 alone.
For those who need only a small amount of seed money for a project, the Awesome Foundation for the Arts and Sciences is another alternative. Funded by less than a dozen trustees who donate cash upfront, the foundation gives monthly awards of $1,000 each with no strings attached. People request funding online by providing information about themselves and how they plan to use the grant, and awards are announced once each month. Founded in 2009 in Boston, Mass., the group has 101 branches in 24 countries as of 2014.
If all other avenues fail, crowdfunding, a social media phenomenon in which people use an online platform to ask strangers to invest in their ideas, is a growing source of capital for people in the United States. According to Entrepreneur magazine, New York City-based Kickstarter, the largest crowdfunding platform in the nation, raised $1.2 billion for its campaign owners as of August 2014.