Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

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American private foundation founded by Bill and Melinda Gates

Summary

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is an American private foundation founded by Microsoft’s founder Bill and philanthropist and former general manager at Microsoft Melinda Gates.

Funded in 2000, the organisation is based in Seattle, Washington and is reported to be the largest private foundation in the world, holding $50.7 billion in assets. Among their objectives, their primary goals are to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty in the world, and, specifically in the U.S., to expand educational opportunities and access to information technology. The foundation is controlled by its three trustees: Bill and Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffett. Other principal officers include Co-Chair William H. Gates, Sr. and Chief Executive Officer Susan Desmond-Hellmann.

The scale of the foundation and the way it seeks to apply business techniques to giving makes it one of the leaders in venture philanthropy, though the foundation itself notes that the philanthropic role has limitations. In 2007, its founders were ranked as the second most generous philanthropists in the US, with Warren Buffett, one of the trustees, ranking the first. Since its founding, the foundation has endowed and supported a broad range of social, health, and education developments including the establishment of the Gates Cambridge.

History

Bill & Melinda Gates

In 1994, Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and one of the richest persons in the world formed the William H. Gates Foundation. During the foundation’s following years, funding grew to $2 billion. On June 15, 2006, Gates announced his plans to transition out of a day-to-day role with Microsoft, effective July 31, 2008, to allow him to devote more time to working with the foundation.

On June 25, 2006, Warren Buffett (then the world’s richest person, estimated worth of $62 billion as of April 16, 2008) pledged to give the foundation approximately 10 million Berkshire Hathaway Class B shares spread over multiple years through annual contributions, with the first year’s donation of 500,000 shares being worth approximately $1.5 billion.

Buffett set conditions so that these contributions do not simply increase the foundation’s endowment, but effectively work as a matching contribution, doubling the foundation’s annual giving. Bloomberg News noted, “Buffett’s gift came with three conditions for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: Bill or Melinda Gates must be alive and active in its administration; it must continue to qualify as a charity; and each year it must give away an amount equal to the previous year’s Berkshire gift, plus an additional amount equal to 5 percent of net assets. Buffett gave the foundation two years to abide by the third requirement.”

The Gates Foundation received 5% (500,000) of the shares in July 2006 and will receive 5% of the remaining earmarked shares in the July of each following year (475,000 in 2007, 451,250 in 2008). In July 2018, Buffet announced another donation of his company’s Class B stock, this time worth $2 billion, to the Gates Foundation.

Among their many activities, which includes events and funding projects aligned to their goals all over the world, in 2010, the foundation’s founders started the Commission on Education of Health Professionals for the 21st Century, entitled “Transforming education to strengthen health systems in an interdependent world.”

A 2011 survey of grantees found that many believed the foundation did not make its goals and strategies clear and sometimes did not understand those of the grantees; that the foundation’s decision- and grantmaking procedures were too opaque; and that its communications could be more consistent and responsive. The foundation’s response was to improve the clarity of its explanations, make “orientation calls” to grantees upon awarding grants, tell grantees who their foundation contact is, give timely feedback when they receive a grantee report, and establish a way for grantees to provide anonymous or attributed feedback to the foundation. The foundation also launched a podcast series.

In 2013, Hillary Clinton launched a partnership between the foundation and the Clinton Foundation to gather and study data on the progress of women and girls around the world since the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference On Women in Beijing. This is called “No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project.”

The Five Program Areas

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation work with partners worldwide to tackle critical problems in five program areas. Their Global Health Division aims to reduce inequities in health by developing new tools and strategies to reduce the burden of infectious disease and the leading causes of child mortality in developing countries. Their Global Development Division focuses on improving the delivery of high-impact health products and services to the world’s poorest communities and helps countries expand access to health coverage. Their Global Growth & Opportunity division focuses on creating and scaling market-based innovations to stimulate inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

In parallel, the Foundation also focuses on the United States with a United States Division, which works to improve U.S. high school and postsecondary education, and support vulnerable children and families in Washington State.  The fifth pillar of the foundation is a Global Policy & Advocacy Division, which seeks to build strategic relationships and promote policies that will help advance their work. Their approach is to grantmaking in all five areas to emphasize collaboration, innovation, risk-taking, and, most importantly, results.

The Foundation’s HQ in Seattle, Washington, US

To maintain its status as a charitable foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation must donate funds equal to at least 5 percent of its assets each year.

Global Health Division

Their Global Health Division aims to harness advances in science and technology to save lives in developing countries. The foundation work with partners to deliver proven tools—including vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics—as well as discover pathbreaking new solutions that are affordable and reliable. Equally important is innovation in how they bring health interventions to those who need them most. For that, they invest heavily in vaccine to prevent infectious diseases and support the development of integrated health solutions for family planning, nutrition, and maternal and child health. Since 2011, the president of the Global Health Program is Trevor Mundel.

Some of the Global Health Division’s significant grants include:

  • The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria: The foundation has donated more than $6.6 billion for global health programs, including over $1.3 billion donated as of 2012 on malaria alone, greatly increasing the dollars spent per year on malaria research
  • Polio eradication: In 2006, the foundation provided $86 million toward efforts attempting to eradicate poliomyelitis (polio).
  • The GAVI Alliance: The foundation gave the GAVI Alliance (formerly the “Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization”) a donation of $750 million on January 25, 2005.
  • Children’s Vaccine Program: The Children’s Vaccine Program, run by the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), received a donation of $27 million to help vaccinate against Japanese encephalitis on December 9, 2003.
  • University of Washington Department of Global Health: The foundation provided approximately $30 million for the foundation of the new Department of Global Health at the University of Washington in Seattle, US. The donation promoted three of the foundation’s target areas: education, Pacific Northwest and global health.
  • HIV Research: The foundation donated a total of $287 million to various HIV/AIDS researchers. The money was split between 16 different research teams across the world, on the condition that the findings are shared amongst the teams.
  • Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation: The foundation gave the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation more than $280 million to develop and license an improved vaccine against tuberculosis (TB) for use in high-burden countries (HBCs).
  • Cheaper high-tech tuberculosis (TB) test: In August 2012, the foundation, in partnership with PEPFAR (United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and UNITAID (an international drug purchasing facility hosted by WHO), announced they had finalized an agreement to reduce the cost of a commercial TB test (Cepheid’s Xpert MTB/RIF run on the GeneXpert platform), from $16.86 to $9.98.>
  • Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI): A global group tasked with more quickly developing vaccines against infectious disease threats worldwide was launched on 8 January 2017 by a coalition of governments and nonprofit groups including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations was funded with an initial investment of $460 million from Germany, Japan, Norway, the Wellcome Trust and the Gates foundation.

Global Development Division

The Global Development Division aims to identify and fund the delivery of high-impact solutions that can reduce health inequities and give everyone the opportunity to healthy, productive lives. The foundation work closely with their partners to support innovative approaches and expand existing ones so they reach the people who are most in need. Christopher Elias leads the foundation’s efforts to combat extreme poverty through grants as president of the Global Development Division.

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