Saturday, February 9, 2008

Setting the Bar for Philanthropy

The Gates foundation, founded by Bill and Melinda Gates of Microsoft fame, is reportedly four times the size of the next largest foundation. This single organization gives more than $3 billion annually. It’s difficult to comprehend a billion of anything. I read over at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity that one million dollar bills stacked on top of each other would reach a height of 361 feet. Multiply that by 3000 and we get a $3 billion dollar tower of bills that’s 205 miles high! Can you imagine handing out this money? Every year? What an awesome responsibility.

I assume the emotional payback is off the charts, after all don’t you feel great after helping someone, even if it’s just one person? Philanthropy is quite an interesting study into human behavior and for more insight, I browsed through the recent Fortune magazine interview with Melinda Gates. In the following, I have listed some of the more remarkable takeaways from that exchange. I say remarkable because I can actually recall these points several days after reading the article!

  • She and Bill plan to give away 95% of their estate

  • She follows the Warren Buffet strategy that she will give her kids everything they need to succeed, but not so much that they could do nothing with their lives

  • The foundation directs it’s funds towards areas of greatest need in the world. Melinda notes that “We literally go down the chart of the greatest inequities and give where we can effect the greatest change."

  • The foundation supports proven scientific approaches that help mitigate world health issues independent of religious doctrine that bans those same proven methods and practices that can help save lives.

  • The foundations #1 goal is to find a vaccine that will prevent AIDS, but they also hope to eradicate malaria, spark an agricultural revolution in Africa and ensure that every child in the United States has access to a quality education

The Gates do not take this responsibility lightly. Certainly they are both very intelligent people that have worked very hard in their lives to succeed. But this level of success and money has got to be difficult to comprehend. How would you react given such tremendous power? Evidently, Melinda Gates feels compelled and obligated to develop an efficient and effective strategy to deploy this power to improve humanity. The world is very fortunate that she is a part of the largest charitable foundation in the history of mankind.

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