What would you buy if you won the lottery or came into a huge sum of money? A fancy car, a luxury mansion, a private island… the possibilities are endless. But what if you’re a multi-billionaire like Bill Gates, do you run out of things to buy?
Yes, Bill Gates donates a large proportion of his wealth to charity. Through his philanthropic foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he has donated over $36 billion to charitable endeavors. Gates is also a signatory of The Giving Pledge; through which he’s promised to donate at least 50 percent of his wealth to charity.
Since its inception in 2000, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has grown to become the world’s largest philanthropic organization. With so much funding in their pocket, how does the foundation determine which charitable causes to donate too?
This article will walk through the entire BMGF story, including the inspiration behind the charity, the causes they’re concerned with and the victories they’ve achieved so far. If you want to know more then stay tuned!
A Once in a Lifetime Vacation
Whilst most wealthy people are involved in a fair share of charity, Bill Gates is the first billionaire bold enough to dedicate a significant period of his life to it.
Unbeknown to most, the story of the BMGF starts with a safari holiday that Bill enjoyed with his wife Melinda during the fall of 1993. The pair traveled to Africa intending to see wild animals, but what they saw on top of this changed the path of their lives forever.
During their March 2014 TED talk titled ‘Why giving away our wealth has been the most satisfying thing we’ve done’, Bill said:
“What really touched us, actually, were the people, and the extreme poverty. We started to ask ourselves questions. Does it have to be like this?”
This was the first time that Bill had witnessed severe deprivation, and it caused him to look inwards. One evening during the vacation Bill and Melinda enjoyed a beach stroll where they reflected on what they’d seen. The topic of conversation progressed on to what life would be like post-Microsoft.
“I became convinced that if science and technology were better applied to the challenges of Africa, the tremendous potential of the continent would be unleashed and people could be healthier”, Gates recalled.
From here, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation seed had been planted. But it didn’t sprout until January 2000, when Bill announced that he was stepping down from his role at Microsoft to pursue his philanthropic priorities. When asked to explain the logic behind his decision, Bill said:
“Once you’ve taken care of yourself and your children, the best use of extra wealth is to give back to society”.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
After setting up the logistics for the BMGF, the next step was to establish a set of goals and concerns. In a 2013 ‘Ask Me Anything’ session hosted on Reddit, Gates clarified:
“Our goals are focused on helping the poorest (globally) and improving education (in the US). We spend half of our money on global health.”
A quick scan of the 19,000 grants that the Foundation has bestowed confirms this to be true. Since the BMGF was created, it has donated $5586.4 million to infectious disease control, $1456.1 million to malaria control, and $1308 million to STD control including HIV and AIDS.
In 2000, Bill played a pivotal role in the formation of GAVI, a non-profit that specializes in vaccinations, and the BMGF has since provided $4 billion in funding. In 2013 it was predicted that GAVI had provided 440 million immunizations, which in turn had averted 6 million deaths.
Elsewhere, the Foundation’s work has helped to decrease infant deaths, increase the number of children receiving basic vaccinations, decrease the percentage of deaths related to malnutrition, and deliver modern contraception to 20 million women.