City A.M.'s World Charity Index 2016 - Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Jeroen Gerlag
Bill and Melinda Gates were amongst those awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (United States) £3.6bn

Microsoft co-founder and former chief exec Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, who also worked for Microsoft, set up their foundation in 2000. They focus on poverty and disease globally and on education in the US, with what they call “catalytic philanthropy”, investing for big returns. They run their foundation like they would run a business: setting clear targets and focusing on output and impact.

Medal of Freedom

On Tuesday 22 November, US President Obama gave his last round of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour, to 21 artists, sports figures, scientists and philanthropists. At the White House, Bill and Melinda Gates were amongst those awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which recognises people who have made significant contributions to national interests, world peace and other public or private endeavours. President Obama called the pair “impatient optimists” and applauded their fight to improve the world.

Announcing Gates’ Philanthropic Partners

With over £29bn given away since 2000, the spending power of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on development aid is bigger than that of most countries. This spending budget not only comes from the Gates family and close friend Warren Buffet: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also received around £25m in donations from individuals since its inception. In a climate of growing demand for transparency and trust, people are now even more inclined to give to renowned philanthropies like the Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation has announced Gates Philanthropic Partners, a new public charity designed as a vehicle for individuals who want to further the work that the foundation is doing. All donations will support existing Gates Foundation grantees and will be directed to projects where additional funding can be absorbed quickly and accelerate work already being done.

Earmarked donations

There is a downside to the growing demand for transparency, resulting in more and more donations being ‘earmarked’ for specific goals. Earmarked donations make it more difficult for organisations to work towards their mission, with non-earmarked donations allowing the charity to put the money to use where they feel it is needed most, based on their expertise and experience.

Since 2008 the Foundation has committed over £180m to those working to address the tobacco epidemic."

Always working in partnerships

Despite having nearly 1,400 employees, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation considers itself “very small when compared to the problems we are trying to solve, many of which are centuries old and incredibly complex”, according to CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann. “That’s why everything we do is arm-in-arm with others. We forge partnerships across sectors and industries and geographies to change the way the world thinks about and tackles big problems.” Desmond-Hellmann cites an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Fighting tobacco

Nearly 6m people die of tobacco-related diseases each year, including more than 600,000 non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke. If current trends persist, the tobacco epidemic could kill more than 8m people each year by 2030, 80 per cent of them in developing countries. Since 2008, the Gates Foundation has committed over £180m to partners who are working to address the tobacco epidemic in more than 30 countries in Africa and Asia, mostly with program partner The Bloomberg Initiative. According to CEO Desmond-Hellmann, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation aims to “curb the tobacco epidemic, with a revenue-generating solution, the proceeds of which are reinforcing the larger health system.” She refers to an example of country-led tobacco control in the Philippines. In 2013, the Philippine Government implemented the Sin Tax Law, which increased taxes on tobacco by up to 820 per cent. After one year, the government earned £785m in new tobacco tax revenue – far exceeding projections. Cigarette prices also increased, leading to an overall decline in smoking in the Philippines, while revenue from the Sin Tax nearly doubled the Philippine Department of Health budget, and financed the extension of fully subsidized health insurance for more than 43m poor Filipinos.

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