A Brief Reminder on the Power of the Gates Foundation

Last week’s New Yorker had a good profile (not online) of the Gates Foundation – and the man himself. It was a helpful reminder that the Gates Foundation deploys more money toward certain public health initiatives than entire governments or world organizations do…all without any political or economic restrictions. In many respects what the Gates Foundation says is more important than what the World Health Organization does.

There’s something really appealing about Gates’ work here, and it has nothing to do with the money. It’s about applying the same obsessive nature that made him successful in business and applying it to philanthropy. So often, you see rich people throw around their money to check the "doing good" box. Rare do you see the intellectual brainpower devoted to the cause. Gates could so easily get away with simply being the world’s #1 philanthropist in a pure monetary sense.

Imagine if everyone on Forbes’ Top 20 richest list all applied the same amount of intellectual vigor that Gates does to their philanthropy. Imagine the impact.

3 comments on “A Brief Reminder on the Power of the Gates Foundation
  • Unfortunately, Bill Gates’ most substantial gift before he got married was to the Stanford computer science department. I imagine that Gates, Sr. asked his son around that time, “How do you want to be remembered?” While the Gates Foundation has single-handedly supported the operation of numerous Oakland public schools, I have a hard time attributing the Foundation’s success to the richest man in the world.

  • Just because it he didn’t achieve clarity on his philanthropy while he was a young buck doesn’t bother me, he has made up for it more than enough. The article describes Gates sending dozens of emails a week to the Foundation executive director and he reviews every grant proposal over $10 M and attends world health conferences around the world. Sure, their assets are the greatest in the world of any charity, but they have accomplished much more bang for that buck in terms of impact than similarly sized organizations.

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