In 1994, the foundation was formed as the William
Foundation with an initial stock gift of US$94 million. In 1999, the
foundation was renamed the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. After a
merger with the Gates Learning Foundation in 2000, Gates gave an
additional US$126 million.
During the foundation's following years, funding grew to US$2 billion.
On June 15, 2006, Gates announced his plans to transition out of a
day-to-day role with
, effective July 31, 2008,
to allow him to devote more time to working with the foundation.
, along with the musician
, were named by
Persons of the Year 2005
for their charitable work. In the case of Bill and Melinda Gates, the work referenced was that of this foundation.
foundation, based in
, is controlled by its three trustees: Bill Gates,
Melinda Gates and
The scale of the foundation and the way it seeks to apply business techniques to giving makes it one of the leaders in the
revolution in global 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 America.
As Bill and Melinda pledge $10
billion over the next decade for
vaccines in the developing world, Time magazine takes a look at what the world's
largest foundation does with it's $34 billion endowment.
Sokoto State, Nigeria
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funds education,
development and health projects around the world. In a
recent grant, the foundation teamed with Rotary International and the
British and German governments to help commit $630 million to fighting
polio. The Bini Community Health Post, which Gates visited in February,
above, is combating the disease in Nigeria, one of the last four
countries in the world with a significant polio problem.
gather at a National Immunization Day booth to receive flags, whistles
and balloons: small rewards in exchange for their bravery in agreeing
to get inoculated against polio. This event was sponsored by Rotary
Los Baños, Philippines
the world of agriculture, the foundation has funded organizations like
the International Rice Research Institute, which received $31 million
in two grants to produce a rice that is more efficient in
photosynthesis and resistant to flooding and cold temperatures. These
enhanced varieties will allow small farmers — many of whom live on less
than $1 a day — to dramatically boost crop yields and lift themselves
out of hunger and poverty.
fight against AIDS, the foundation, along with the global-health
community, estimates that new HIV infections could be cut in half by
the Gateses got involved, malaria — a disease that contributes to 1
million deaths a year — garnered little attention. "We gave a small
grant at first, like $30 million," Bill Gates recalls, "and everybody
said, 'Wow! That is the greatest increase in nongovernmental spending
in the history of malaria research!' And I thought, Oh, you are
." Since then, the foundation has committed $1.6 billion to fighting the disease.
In 2006, billionaire
investor (and Bill Gates buddy) Warren Buffett effectively doubled the
foundation's endowment by pledging $31 billion. Despite its massive
wealth, the Foundation remains nimble: all it takes to move billions of
dollars out the door is the approval of Bill and Melinda.
American education system is a primary focus of the foundation's work.
Memphis City Schools, above, are among the beneficiaries of $335
million in grants aimed at improving teacher effectiveness and the fair
and reliable measurement thereof, increasing the number of effective
teachers and supporting and rewarding those teachers who are increasing
student achievement. Ultimately, the foundation is committed to
dramatically increasing the number of students who obtain a college or
the Internet can be enormously useful in accessing health, government
and job information, there are billions of people around the world who
can never use it. In 2002 the foundation gave a $1 million Access to
Learning Award to BibloRed, the public-library network of Bogotá, shown
above, to expand its technology services.
How does the
foundation know if its work is paying off? As Bill himself notes, "You
don't have customers who beat you up when you get things wrong ... you
don't have a stock price that goes up and down to tell you how you're
doing." Indeed, the foundation has been criticized for focusing too
much on cutting-edge vaccine research instead of on more readily
available tools like mosquito nets, and for providing governments with
an excuse to not spend their own money. Though the foundation rejects
both of these criticisms, it nevertheless insists on rigorous
self-evaluation and goes further than most in revealing its failures