Bill Melinda Gates Foundation

Microsoft may be the largest global software corporation, but it is another one of Gates’ institutions that is beginning to make headlines around the world. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is currently the largest charitable foundation in the world – and the largest ever in history, was established in 2000 by the billionaire couple to help in the fight against extreme poverty, to work to improve global healthcare, and also to expand access to education and technology in the United States.

Based in Seattle, Washington, the organization is co-chaired by the couple, as well as Gates’ father, William H. Gates, Sr. Although it originally began with a $106 million donation from the Microsoft cofounder himself, today, the organization has an endowment of approximately $33.7 billion. So passionate is he about its work that he has announced his decision to transition himself out of the daily running of Microsoft, effective July 31, 2008, in order to focus more on the Foundation.

On June 25, 2006, the organization received a substantial vote of confidence when billionaire investor Warren Buffett pledged to donate 10 million Berkshire Hathaway Class B shares to the organization. At the time, this was equivalent to a donation of $30.7 billion. The organization is to receive the funds in annual amounts over multiple years, and is conditional upon the fact that both its namesakes are alive and active in overseeing the use of the funds.

In order to keep its status as a charitable foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation must donate at least five percent of its assets on an annual basis. Thus, each year the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation hands out a minimum amount of $1.5 billion to various causes. Its operations are divided into three major grant-giving programs: the Global Health Program, the Global Development Program, and the United States Program.

To date, the organization has given millions of dollars to organizations such as the United Nations’ World Health Organization, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, the Nobel Prize winning Grameen Foundation, and 16 different HIV/AIDS research teams across the world on the condition that they share their findings with each other. Within the U.S., it has established scholarships for minority students who excel academically, and has donated millions to both the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and the California Computer History Museum. It also makes regular donations to charities working with various aid efforts, such as CARE International and the International Rescue Committee.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has even entered popular culture, being parodied on such shows as The Colbert Report, with Stephen Colbert launching the Stephen & Melinda Gates Foundation that works to send gay people into space. However, to many, the work of the organization is no laughing matter. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has also been the subject of much criticism, namely for its support of organizations that promote abortion and contraception, and for its investment in oil companies such as Eni.

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