Continuity and Change at the Gates Foundation

Following various previous blogs in governance changes At the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we’ve noticed even more news in recent months about the foundation’s board of directors, timeline, and grant making Given the size of the foundation and the prominent role it continues to play in addressing global health and poverty along with K-12 education in the United States, the ways in which Gates is approaching board composition, the expiration and significant increase in grants can provide valuable lessons for other donors

In August, the foundation Announced two new independent trustees had joined its board. The appointments of Helene Gayle, president of Spelman College, and Ashish Dhawan, founder and CEO of the Convergence Foundation in India, follow the appointment of three more external board members in January this year along with Mark Suzman, CEO of Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation’s board of directors, which for many years included only Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates plus another “insider” (Bill Gates Sr. followed by foundation donor Warren Buffet), now numbers eight people, five of which are considered independent. With its latest members, the foundation’s board has increased its internal knowledge and expertise in global health and development.

Plans to end the foundation.

The second announcement was reported by Forbes on September 23 with Bill Gates announcing at the Forbes 400 Philanthropy Summit that the foundation would close its doors in 25 years. The foundation’s central goal during that time, he explained, was “to try to bring infectious diseases, or all the diseases that make the world unequal, to a large extent, either by eradicating them or by reducing them to very low levels.” Low levels.” In noting that he would follow up his recent $20 billion gift to the foundation with extremely large additional gifts, the implication was clear: Bill Gates hoped to complete his philanthropic endeavors in his own lifetime.

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But it is not so, reported Well-informed person a few weeks later, she noted that Melinda French Gates had announced at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Conference that, as previously decided, the foundation will last until 20 years after she and Bill Gates die. More important than the contradiction, however, were her additional comments about the extinction of the foundation that are clearly aligned with her ex-husband’s thinking.

“The intention is that the resources that have accumulated from Microsoft have ended, for whatever reason, in our hands, that those resources go back to society,” he said. “Both he and I have long thought that we cannot predict problems 100 years from now. We couldn’t have predicted some of the things that have happened in the last five years.” In a later interview with Bloombergfrench doors commented that she and her ex-husband “remain fully committed to this institution and to working together effectively.”

Future grants to include continuity and innovation.

In grantmaking at the Gates Foundation, we can expect a mix of continuity and innovation. As Bill Gates pointed out, significant and likely greater resources will still be allocated for global health and development, including climate change adaptation and resilience. In September, he revealed the foundation committed $912 million to help replenish the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a Gates collaboration with governments and other nonprofits, through 2026. And in October, Bloomberg indicated that the foundation would add $1.2 billion to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, bringing the foundation’s total commitment to that effort to $5 billion.

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Similarly, the foundation’s existing efforts to increase charitable donations – including the give promise and multiple grants to improve both data collection and public awareness of giving—it got a notable boost with a $10 million grant to the GivingTuesday organization in 2022. Part of that grant, which is just $500,000 less than the amount The total amount given by Gates to GivingTuesday since its founding in 2012 will support a database of charitable giving and other acts of generosity, as reported in The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

That article also quotes French Gates on the foundation’s reasoning for the donation. “Whether people are giving their voice, their time, their expertise or their money, and given that it was the 10th anniversary of GivingTuesday, it seemed like the right time to step up with another commitment,” she said.

In North America, K-12 education continues to be a key focus area for the foundation, along with early learning and post-secondary success. But within that area, the foundation revealed in October that support for math education would increase dramatically to $1.1 billion over the next four years, while grants in other subjects, including language arts, would be cut. The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that the foundation’s “increased focus on math comes after the pandemic ‘wreaked havoc’ on learning in high schools and widened race-based gaps in student performance, with math scores between black students falling more steeply than declines among white students, according to Bob Hughes, director of the Gates Foundation’s elementary and secondary education grantmaking program.

Another cause that has long been important to the foundation is the empowerment of women and families in an effort to address global poverty. As the Gates Foundation website states, “Our Gender Equality Division works to ensure that women and girls in Africa and South Asia can enjoy good health, make their own decisions, earn their own money, and be leaders in their societies. While this focus has traditionally included family planning and maternal and child health, and will continue to do so, it is now clear that further investment in this area will focus more on women’s health. economic empowerment.

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Beyond the foundation’s work, French Gates will commit much of his personal wealth to this effort through fundamental companies, a 501(c)(3) organization she founded in 2015. Most recently, she explained why she is committing $1 billion to increase the economic empowerment of women in the United States by focusing on four sectors: technology, finance, media, and politics. . “You get more capital in those four industries and you will change the whole society,” she commented in an interview with Fortune.

In the wake of personal turmoil and frequent public controversy, the Gates Foundation remains committed to acting on the words of its founders: “We wake up each day determined to use our resources to create a world where everyone has the opportunity to lead healthy and productive lives.” Whether one agrees or disagrees with their priorities, Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates remain among the most influential philanthropists in the country both in their areas of focus and the strategies they employ.