- Bill and Melinda Gates said their divorce wouldn’t get in the way of their philanthropic work.
- The couple set up the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, which focuses on health, education, and poverty.
- Here are the foundation’s biggest projects.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Bill and Melinda Gates announced Monday that they’re getting divorced after 27 years of marriage. They would continue their work at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, they said.
The billionaire couple have been leading philanthropists for many years, and set up the foundation in 2000. It has since become one of the world’s biggest philanthropic foundations, and had an endowment of $49.8 billion as of 2019.
Its has funded work in areas including global health, emergency relief, education, and poverty, and has pumped around $1.75 billion into COVID-19 relief efforts.
Bill and Melinda Gates are co-chairs and trustees of the Seattle-based foundation, and they each received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 from President Barack Obama in recognition of their work. Bill even stepped down as the CEO of Microsoft in 2008 to focus on the foundation, and left the boards of Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway in March 2020 for the same reason.
The foundation is led by CEO Mark Suzman. Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett is also a trustee.
In 2019, the year that the most recent data is available for, the foundation had 1,600 employees and gave just over $5 billion to grantees, with the majority spent on global health and development causes.
Here’s where its funding goes.
The foundation said that it gave around $1.75 billion to fight the coronavirus outbreak in 2020.
Most of this went towards production and procurement of crucial medical supplies, including PPE, vaccines, testing kits, and treatments.
Most of this investment has focused on developing countries. At the onset of the pandemic in early February 2020, the foundation gave a grant to help the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention scale up testing capacity across sub-Saharan Africa. It also announced plans to help US drugmaker Eli Lilly supply its COVID-19 antibody therapy to low- and middle-income countries.
The foundation has helped fund the coronavirus response in the US, too. In March 2020, it gave $3.7 million in grants to support relief efforts in the Seattle-King County region, and also funded a project to provide at-home test kits to the region.
The foundation has also helped fund COVAX, a World Health Organization-backed project aiming to provide poorer countries with enough COVID-19 vaccine doses to cover 20% of their population.
The foundation’s annual letter, published January 2021, focused heavily on the pandemic. In the letter, titled “The year global health went local,” Bill and Melinda said that pandemic preparedness was as serious as “the threat of war.” Stopping the next pandemic would take “tens of billions of dollars per year,” they added.
Bill Gates has warned of an impending pandemic for years, and much of the foundation’s funding has gone towards projects funding disease prevention, alongside wider healthcare projects.
The foundation has pledged about $2 billion to help defeat malaria alone, and wants to eliminate malaria “within a generation.”
The foundation also donated more than $50 million in 2014 to help fight the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, and pledged $38 million to a Japanese pharmaceutical company that is working on creating a low-cost polio vaccine.
The Gates Foundation also partnered with the Nigeria-based Dangote Foundation in 2016 to spend $100 million on eliminating malnutrition in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy.
Melinda Gates, who steered the foundation virtually on her own for the first six years of operation, has also worked to raise awareness of “time poverty,” the idea that hours of unpaid work such as household chores rob women of their potential.
She told Insider that women in the US spend around seven years on unpaid at-home labor over their lifetimes, and wrote in the foundation’s 2016 annual letter that girls in many countries fall behind in their education as a result of unpaid work.
Gates has led several other efforts to advance opportunities for women around the world, including the expansion of contraception availability around the world. In a Time magazine op-ed, Melinda Gates wrote that she and her husband had invested in Mama Cash — the oldest international women’s fund in the world — as well as networks like Prospera, which supports grassroots women’s groups and funds in more than 170 countries.
Education is at the forefront of the Gates Foundation’s giving as well. The Gates Millennium Scholars Program was established in 1999 to provide financial support to students of color pursuing undergraduate degrees. Roughly $1.6 billion has gone toward the program, and about 1,000 new scholars are selected each year.
The foundation also released an annual Goalkeepers report where it measures global progress on development goals including reducing poverty and improving access to clean water, healthcare, and vaccines.
In 2010, the Gates’s tried to inspire philanthropy among other wealthy executives by launching the Giving Pledge, which encourages billionaires to donate at least half of their wealth to charitable causes during their lifetime or in their will. A 2018 report from financial research company Wealth-X predicted the pledge may be worth as much as $600 billion by 2022.
The future of the foundation
On Monday, the couple announced that they were getting divorced, but said that they would still continue their philanthropic work at the foundation.
The foundation told The New York Post that they would both remain its co-chairs and trustees.
“No changes to their roles or the organization are planned,” the foundation said. “They will continue to work together to shape and approve foundation strategies, advocate for the foundation’s issues, and set the organization’s overall direction.”
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