William Henry Gates – AKA Bill Gates – turns 64 today. You probably know him best as the founder of Microsoft and one of the richest people in the world. (Fun fact: with his current net worth he could give every single person in the world $12.34).
Bill is a genius inventor and businessman, as well as proof to every nerdy little kid that life really does get better after high school. But what you may not know about Mr. Gates is that he is also one of the single most charitable people in the world.
So to celebrate his birthday this year, instead of focusing on his technological innovations or his unfathomable wealth, we’re going to take a look at his generous philanthropically work. Hopefully, we can all take a little inspiration from Bill and give what we can to help make the world a better place.
All roads lead to the Foundation.
Though he’s given to a number of organizations over the years, Mr. Gate’s crowning charitable achievement is the creation of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) which uses its vast capital reserves to tackle the worlds most pressing issues in a totally unique way. Rather than look at the challenges that people face by region, they instead identify challenges that can be tackled on a global level.
They then work with partners that can help to affect that change globally, before scaling those solutions to a local level. Over the years, Bill Gates has donated over 30 billion dollars through his foundation alone in the form of grants, and has secured the promise of more than 365 billion in the foundation’s future through their billionaire “giving pledge”.
According to the foundation’s website, their approach to grant-making in every area they focus is very simple and emphasizes collaboration, innovation, risk-taking, and, most importantly, results. And since there is simply too many charities the foundation supports for us to list, instead, we are going to focus on the five main Divisions of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the types of work they each support to help you get just a taste of the amazing work they do.
1. Global Health Division
If there’s any charitable work that Bill Gates is most associated with it is the quest to eradicate malaria. This effort is being undertaken by a vast array of different organizations and research groups, but they are all overseen by this division of the BMGF. In its simplest form, the Global Health Division aims to harness advances in science and technology to save lives in developing countries.
This can be in to form of supporting access to proven healthcare tools, funding research into path-breaking new ones, and even increasing access to health interventions for the people and places that need it most. Some of the many areas this division focuses on include: diarrheal diseases, HIV, Malaria, pneumonia, tuberculosis, neglected tropical diseases, vaccine development, maternal and child health, epidemiology, and research and discovery sciences.
2. Global Development Division
This part of the BMGF is focused on issues that disproportionately affect the developing parts of the world, holding the people there back from achieving their best lives. This is a priority for the foundation because the inequity between different parts of the world, both in capital and opportunities, is one of the biggest factors keeping the world from eradicating the issues that affect us all.
The Global Development Division aims to identify and fund the delivery of high-impact solutions that can reduce health inequities and give everyone the opportunity to live healthy, productive lives by supporting innovative approaches and expand existing ones so they reach the people who are most in need.
Some of the many areas this division focusses on include: emergency response development, family planning, global libraries, integrated health services delivery, nutrition, polio, maternal and child health, and vaccine delivery.
3. Global Growth & Opportunity Division
When it comes to the issue of poverty, the BMGF has a simple outlook. They believe that people are poor because markets don’t work for them, and to fight this they promote innovative products and policies that can break down barriers to economic opportunity, help people lift themselves out of poverty, and deliver sustainable and inclusive growth that benefits everyone.
Nearly 2.5 billion people worldwide live on less than US $1.90 a day, and more than 1 billion suffer from chronic hunger. This is a massive global issue that it will take more than money to fix. But their foundation is working hard to tackle it and has invested in data and measurement to understand the underlying causes of poverty and develop evidence-based solutions that can be delivered at scale.
The main issues this division is focused on include: agricultural development to curb world hunger, financial services and business loans for the poor, gender equality, and water, sanitation, and hygiene improvement.
4. United States Division
Though the BMGF is a globally focused organization, Bill has never forgotten his roots and the incredible gift of an education he received in the USA, as such he has devoted an entire division of his foundation to promoting educational opportunities right here in the United States.
The primary focus of this division is on ensuring that all students graduate from high school prepared for college and have an opportunity to earn a postsecondary degree with labor-market value. The foundation’s approach is to play a catalytic role—to support the development of innovative solutions in education that are unlikely to be generated by institutions working alone and that can trigger change on a broader scale.
The main issues this division focusses on include: k-12 education, economic mobility and opportunity, and postsecondary success and access. They also work to address issues of social inequity and poverty in Washington State, where the Gates family has lived for many years and the foundation makes its permanent home.
5. Global Policy & Advocacy Division
The coffers of the BMGF are vast, but they aren’t completely bottomless. Bill Gates has acknowledged for years that monetary resources alone are not going to be enough to advance all the causes that he cares about, but that’s where this division of the foundation comes in.
The Global Policy and Advocacy Division engages in promotion efforts to support public policies that advance their work, build strategic alliances with governments and the public and private sectors, and foster greater public awareness of urgent global issues. This part of the foundation brings together teams dedicated to advocacy, policy analysis, media and communications, government relations, as well as strengthening philanthropic partnerships and the charitable sector in the United States and overseas.
And as a truly global organization, they work in close collaboration with offices in the United States, Europe, China, India, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and South Africa. The main issues this division focusses on include: tobacco control, development policy and finance, and creating a global education learning strategy.
Clearly, the philanthropic work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is on a completely different level- by last year’s measurements, they gave away four times more in charitable donations than the next most generous charity.
The work that the foundation does has mad a measurable impact on the world today and has potentially saved millions of lives. And at the end of the day, it’s probably also the very best reason to respect Bill Gates. Yes, he changed the way we live and work with his technological innovations.
Yes, he amassed one of the largest fortunes in history. And yes, he can leap over an office chair from a standing start. But above all Mr. Gates is a genuinely good person who is absolutely devoted to making the world a better place. If only there were more like him.
Happy birthday, sir!