Here's how much Bill and Melinda Gates have given away

Stephanie Asymkos
·Reporter
·4 min read

While Bill and Melinda Gates’ marriage may be ending after 27 years, their commitment to leaving the world a better place is not.

Their eponymous foundation “works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives,” the couple noted in their divorce announcement on Monday. “We continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue our work together at the foundation.”

From 1994 through April 2021, the Gates have committed grants worth $67.8 billion through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and previous foundations of the Gates family (William H. Gates Foundation, Gates Library Foundation, and Gates Learning Foundation), according to the grant database available on the foundation’s website.

With its endowment shy of $50 billion, the foundation has been at the forefront of funding global health initiatives and combating worldwide poverty since its inception in 2000.

Bill and Melinda Gates listen to remarks during the opening reception of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation campus in Seattle, Washington, June 2, 2011. REUTERS/Marcus Donner
Bill and Melinda Gates listen to remarks during the opening reception of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation campus in Seattle, Washington, June 2, 2011. REUTERS/Marcus Donner

Most recently, the foundation pledged more than $1.75 billion to the global COVID-19 response, including procuring 200 million doses of the vaccine and 120 million rapid diagnostic tests for low- and middle-income countries.

"I think we have a moral responsibility to make sure everybody gets a vaccine,” Melinda Gates shared with Yahoo Finance Presents in December. “There's an estimate that says that if only high income countries get the vaccine first, we're going to see twice as much death around the world.”

The first grant in 1994 from the couple was for $1 million to the Seattle Art Museum to support the general endowment. Since then, the 23,380 grants from the Gates have been varied.

(Courtesy of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation)
(Courtesy of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation)

For instance, after the September 11th terrorist attacks, the foundation gave $1 million to the New York Times Neediest Cases Fund to support families of the victims. It also provided a $5 million grant to the 9/11 Memorial Museum, according to the database.

The foundation has made only three grants worth over $1 billion.

In 1999, it pledged $1.26 billion to the United Negro College Fund to support the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, an academic scholarship program for students of color. In 2007, it gave a $1.29 billion grant to The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International to support global polio eradication activities. And in 2016, the foundation provided a $1.54 billion grant — the largest so far in its history — to the GAVI Alliance to increase equitable use of vaccines in lower-income countries.

Bill and Melinda Gates receive their Presidential Medals of Freedom from U.S. President Barack Obama in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., November 22, 2016.   REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Bill and Melinda Gates receive their Presidential Medals of Freedom from U.S. President Barack Obama in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

The smallest grant provided by the Gates was a $50 one to the Mount Rainier, North Cascades & Olympic Fund in 1995 to support general operations, according to the database.

The “world’s largest private charitable foundation” employs 1,602 people across nine offices on four continents, according to its website. It provides grants in six categories: gender equality, global development program, global growth and opportunity program, global health program, global policy and advocacy, and U.S. program.

A divorce is unlikely to derail the foundation’s impact. The billionaire benefactors are still committed to their Seattle-based foundation and will remain co-chairs and trustees with no expected organizational changes.

Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Warren Buffett poses with Bill and Melinda Gates after a news conference in New York on June 26, 2006. Buffett on Monday signed over much of his $44 billion fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, uniting the world's two richest people in a bid to fight disease, reduce poverty and improve education. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Warren Buffett poses with Bill and Melinda Gates after a news conference in New York on June 26, 2006. Buffett on Monday signed over much of his $44 billion fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, uniting the world's two richest people in a bid to fight disease, reduce poverty and improve education. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The Gates — alongside their good friend, fellow billionaire, and foundation trustee Warren Buffett — also started the Giving Pledge in 2010, which asks for billionaires to donate the majority of their wealth to charitable causes.

Among the 200-plus committed individuals and couples include Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, Michael Bloomberg, George Lucas and Mellody Hobson, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, and Spanx founder and CEO Sara Blakely.

MacKenzie Scott — who went through a similar headline-making billionaire divorce in 2019 from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos — signed the pledge a month after her divorce was finalized. In March, Scott's husband Dan Jewett signed the pledge. Bezos has not yet.

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Stephanie is a reporter for Yahoo Money and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @SJAsymkos.

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