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How the world's rich give away their millions

Philanthropy may be growing around the world. But the world's millionaires have vastly different ideas about what causes to fund.

According to a new study from WealthInsight, the favorite charitable cause for the world's millionaires is cultural institutions, like arts, music and museums. The second favorite is academic institutions—schools and colleges. And the third-highest cause is health care.

Among the least popular causes among the world's millionaires were religion, think tanks, sports, human rights and military causes.


Female millionaires tend to favor health and humanitarian causes, according to the study. Millionaires who earned their wealth in finance donate mostly toward academic and cultural causes.

(Read more: Can you be addicted to wealth?)

But when the rich are divided by region, the results vary widely. In developed economies like the U.S. and Europe, health and culture are the top causes for millionaires. In developing economies, education ranks first for giving.

In the Americas, 20 percent of millionaires preferring to give to health causes. Culture ranked second, with 19.7 percent, followed by education and humanitarian causes.

In Asia, education dominates, with 27 percent giving to education, while a much smaller number gave to culture and health care. In Africa and the Middle East, 29.6 percent contributed to academic causes.

(Read more: Zuckerberg tops philanthropist list)

The study also found that millionaires around the world are self-made businesspeople who want to translate their business success into philanthropic results.

"An increasing number of millionaires are focusing on applying business acumen to their chosen cause," said Ouliana Vlasova, head of content at WealthInsight.

—By CNBC's Robert Frank. Follow him on Twitter @robtfrank.

Watch "Secret Lives of the Super Rich", Wednesdays, at 9 p.m. ET/PT.|http://superrich.cnbc.com.

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