February 12

The Surprising Strategy Behind the Gates Foundation’s Success

By Dylan Matthews

Over the first 20 years of its existence, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spent $53.8 billion on its various programs, the Gateses announced in their annual letter for 2020. The large majority of that spending, about $39.8 billion, went to global development and global health programs.

This is an impressive sum, one that solidifies the foundation as by far the most prolific giver in all of American philanthropy. In 2015, for instance, it distributed $3.8 billion when no other foundation even crossed the $1 billion threshold. It is truly without peers in the scale of its giving.

But the 2020 annual letter doesn’t just rattle off statistics. It delves into the strategy behind their giving, which is important for understanding everything the Gateses have done to this point. “When [Warren Buffett] donated the bulk of his fortune to our foundation and joined us as a partner in its work, he urged us to ‘swing for the fences,’” the Gateses write, with Bill adding in the margins, “You know Warren was onto something when he’s got me using a sports metaphor.”

Photo courtesy of DFID.

Source: Vox (link opens in a new window)

global development, philanthropy