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Bill Gates is one of America’s most notable philanthropists. Before he devoted his life to helping others, he co-founded Microsoft with Paul Allen. Since the late 1980s, Bill Gates has been included on the Forbes list of the world’s most wealthiest people. In 2008, Gates officially stepped away from Microsoft  so that he could work full-time at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This post will explore how Gates became involved in philanthropy and some of the programs that his foundation is involved in.


Bill and his wife, Melinda, formed their foundation in 2000. It is currently the largest private foundation that exists. According to its founders, the organization is focused on “extreme poverty and poor health in developing countries, and the failures of America’s education system” (Letter from Bill and Melinda Gates). Their strategy is to focus on a limited number of issues where they think they’ll have the biggest impact.


Bill Gates believes that it’s the responsibility of philanthropic organizations to take on more risk than traditional businesses. He feels that charitable organizations exist because businesses are unable to solve the pressing issues that charities take on—that or they lack the motivation to make a positive impact on the world. Gates is a fan of catalytic philanthropy. Catalytic philanthropy can be defined as “an approach practiced by innovative funders to create transformative change beyond writing the check” (FSG). The definition continues: “Truly catalytic philanthropists often ‘punch above their (financial) weight’ by leveraging their voice, community relationships, and non-grantmaking skills such as convening and capacity building to drive social change” (FSG).

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been so effective because it looks for issues that aren’t receiving enough attention, and then the foundation steps in to see how it can make a difference.


Most recently, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it will pledge $5 billion in funding for AIDS research. Since the foundation’s beginning, it has donated $9 billion to help alleviate problems in Africa. AIDS research falls under the foundation’s Global Health division. The foundation also has a Global Development division, a US Program, and a Global Policy & Advocacy division. The website for the foundation lists every project that it is currently involved in.


Unlike some charitable foundations that remain active for many decades, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation plans to end 50 years after both of them die. This decision highlights the organization’s commitment to having the greatest impact it possibly can during this century. Bill and Melinda are confident that they will solve many of the issues they have set out to solve. The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is devoted to understanding the root causes of the issues they tackle so that the problem can be eliminated entirely.